Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tomorrow

     One of the most difficult parts of flaring is the lack of understanding that surrounds JRA and being sick in general. Of course, these misunderstandings are not typically laced with malice; most people genuinely do not understand the toll living with chronic pain takes on one's body and one's mind, and while this innocent ignorance is enormously frustrating, it is also unavoidable. Figuring out the complexities of chronic illness takes up a whole lot of energy, and everyone ends up exhausted. I'm tired, my friends are tired, and I'm sure when my rheumatologist hears about this he will be tired as well. None of us know what to do with my knees or my elbows or my heartache, and we just keep trying different drugs and words but none of them seem to permeate the pain. Some people stay close by, some people distance themselves and put up walls. While I always advocate for the former, I fall into the latter category at an embarrassingly frequent rate, which only leads to further isolation. I wish I could distance myself from myself, but unfortunately that is not how all of this works. 

      A concept I have pondered relentlessly since my diagnosis is that of "tomorrow." It can be such an intimidating word, but it can also be brimming over with hope, like hot chocolate on a chilly day that refuses to be confined by the ceramic walls of a mug. Sometimes when I flare, all I can think about is the next day. Will it be better? Will it be worse? Will I be able to move around? Will I have to cancel my plans? Will my friends understand or be frustrated or both? Will my parents wish that they still had yesterday's kid? 

     When you're living with a chronic illness, "tomorrow" is one of the most intimidating words in the English language. It stalks its victims throughout the day, creating fear and worry. I would like to assure you that I have completely escaped from its chains and have come out the other side a hero, but that simply would not be true. I spend a significant portion of my time during flare days thinking about tomorrow until I am inevitably distracted by something way more interesting and productive. 

     Needless to say, I occasionally find myself desperate for some encouragement in the dark pit that might await me the next day. So I decided a few months ago that when "tomorrow" creeps up behind me, I will respond with a question stronger than any of the questions above. 

How can I love people more tomorrow than I did today?

   (Disclaimer: This form of the question works best at night. In the morning the question, "How can I love people more today than I did yesterday?" is a better fit. Two versions, same thing.) 

     I have extremely limited control over whether I will feel better tomorrow. The most I can do is sleep and strap some ice packs to my body. Even as I am writing this, I have no clue how I will feel when I wake up tomorrow. It is terrifying. Living like this is frightening and it seems like no one really gets it. But I know that no matter how big or how small the challenges of tomorrow turn out to be, there can still be love. 

     Even when I kind of felt like the world was falling apart earlier this week in the midst of all of the pain, a Southwest flight attendant and a Disney cast member assured me that there are still plenty of people committed to a lifestyle of conscious tomorrows. There are still people who actively seek to understand rather than to judge and who believe the experiences of sick people without needing a thousand doctor's notes or medical forms. These strangers loved me as I vomited in the back of a plane and requested a ride modification for an invisible condition. These strangers saw me only at my worst, yet instead of shunning me they drew me in and made me feel at home. These strangers are people I want to be like. These women are people who are committed to loving others more tomorrow than they did today. Sometimes during flares strangers feel like friends and friends feel like strangers. Maybe they are all one in the same. 

      Tomorrow seems awful at the moment, because I do not foresee a fast turnaround as far as the condition of my joints and I already know that my day will consist of doctors and shots and packing. But I also have plans to tell people that I love them, in words and in actions, even if it must be done from a distance. I'm sure there will be tears at the allergist's office and tears at home and tears while I'm watching Grey's Anatomy for the bazillionth time. Flares are hard. But flares are no excuse to waste time. Who knows how many tomorrows any of us have left to love each other? Who knows whose life will be changed by a pinch of generosity? Who knows how many tomorrows we will someday regret? Tomorrow is a new day. It can be full of the status quo, or it can be a hot chocolate mug of love and hope. How will you love people more tomorrow than you did today?

     Don't throw tomorrow away. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Some Days Are Hard

 Written on Wednesday, July 20th. Published on Thursday, July 21st. 

    The truth is, I'm not exactly one to write during the hard moments. I willingly write about them afterward, when I feel like I have learned some sort of grand lesson or at least snapped myself out of whatever uncertainty I am in. But some days are hard. Some days have no clear moral to them. Instead, illness seems evil and random, with the cruel capacity to suck all of the life out of me and strip me of the identity I have spent 17 years creating. Honestly, today was one of those days.

     I woke up in more joint pain than I went to bed in, which is always discouraging. I started the day with an appointment with my oral surgeon, which was disappointing to say the least. When I revealed the jaw pain and issues I was having in conjunction with the flare in my lower joints, she immediately directed me to eat soft foods for two weeks and return for a follow-up. My heart sunk. Doesn't she know that the soft food diet was making me crazy? I thought incredulously. Isn't she aware of the inseverable link between my mental health and my ability to chew? I did not argue with her, since she is a brilliant surgeon and I am simply a complex and emotionally-drained patient, but I was quietly devastated. I spent all day joking about it and eating semi-soft foods, but I felt a sense of panic that only comes when you know firsthand how awful a soft-food diet truly is (especially for a vegan like me - think no pudding, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, etc.). It felt like such a dumb reason to be upset; there are people starving, and I am bitter about the type of food that I have to eat? But this brief emotional hurdle has been impossible to address given the present condition of my joints.

     Between my joint pain and soft food diet, I was not feeling particularly grateful for all that the day had to offer. Even texting felt like a monumental task to aching bones. What's worse is that the pain was causing me extreme fatigue, enough to make me fall asleep after completing unimpressive, menial tasks. I napped periodically throughout the day, because why not? I didn't eat breakfast or lunch, because what did it matter? Why not just stay under the three layers of blankets I inhabit every night? Why not just sleep through the pain and hunger and disappointment? What difference does it make if I am awake or asleep? Why should I put in effort to look nice or go exploring when my health is going to halt any and all of my attempts? Why should I do anything if it is just going to force me right back into bed?

      I slept a lot, but eventually I needed to move on with my life, and having a friend over seemed like a good start to that. Before she came, a person I am very close with commented, "I'm sure [your friend] is pretty sick of coming over when you're not feeling well." There was no malicious intent, but the words stung like lidocaine (medical jokes, I know). Of course she's sick of it, I thought, holding back tears. I'm sick of it. I want to stop hanging out with me. Why did I tell her it was okay to come over? What am I putting her through? I felt selfish and I responded by mentally torturing myself with painful questions designed as a ethical form of self-incrimination. Was I having her over to distract me from my own pain, or because I thought she would genuinely have a good time? Am I receiving significantly more than I am giving in my relationships? Isn't this massive inequality morally wrong? It seems that way. Having a friend over ended up being nice and gave me something to do besides sleeping face-down on my pillow or staring through wispy white curtains praying for any sort of avian entertainment, but when we stopped talking for a period of about 30 seconds I fell right asleep, exhausted by my attempts to calm my racing mind and soothe my uncooperative, flaring joints. And as embarrassing as it is to admit since I have spoken many times before as an adamant defendant of grace, friendship, and compassion, the truth is that even though I shouldn't, I still feel absolutely horrible about falling asleep. I want to be a good friend to people. I want to accurately convey how much I care about them. It seems like my body just can't keep up with me, and I want out of it. Who wants to come over if all their friend is going to do is sleep? Staying alert is the most basic of functions, the most simple way to show someone that you care. If I can't even stay awake, what kind of friend does that make me?

      All in all, it was not a terrible day. I saw two cats (we're really delving into the important stuff here), one of which snuggled with me on the sidewalk in the middle of a college campus for a solid five minutes before I noticed a group of students in a lecture hall staring at me through the large, modern window that spanned across the entire wall. At first I assumed they were staring at the bandages tightly wound around my knees and right ankle, playing a guessing game of what injury I had and judging its legitimacy, but then I realized that I was on the ground with a cat. Such is life. This evening, I happened upon a wonderful veteran and his service dog, both of whom were injured in Iraq, and was reminded of how difficult life can be but also how beautiful unconditional love is as I admired the bond between them and asked questions in hopes of soaking in some of the veteran's insight. Finally, I met up with a former teacher, sent a low dose of caffeine coursing through my veins in the form of tea, talked about my life outside of all of this, and felt more like myself again.

     Days like these are hard. Of course, I am not oblivious to all of the amazing things that happen in the world every day. I remain a cheerleader for empathy and grateful for friends who care. I laugh at jokes and crack some of my own in a last-ditch effort to convince myself that everything is funny instead of sad. I feel joy and I give hugs and I tell people that I love them. Yet I cannot help but feel crushed by the weight of not knowing how to be good at being sick. I have had a lot of practice - why do I still have so many questions? Why am I still screwing it up so much? Shouldn't there be some sort of manual for this? All I got when I was diagnosed was a brochure. Shouldn't someone explain to me how to make my friends understand the implications of a chronic illness? Will they ever understand? I spend hours wondering how I am ever supposed to repay all of the debt I accumulate with my friends when I am too exhausted to remain awake and alert for any sort of interaction.

     Perhaps the hardest part of it all is feeling different. Most people do not have to worry about how their friend is going to feel when they are hanging out together; my friends do. Most people do not have to worry that spending time with their friend will be more exhausting than it is rewarding; my friends do. Most people do not have to make plans around their friend's ability to walk; my friends do. Of course, it is thoughtful and considerate of my friends to take these gentle steps instead of just being like, "We're climbing Everest today, let's go." But honestly? Ninety-nine percent of the time, I don't feel like my company is worth it. I have no incredible talent, I often say the wrong thing, and I over-apologize whenever I make mistakes to the point where people become understandably fed up with me, which, of course, only makes me want to apologize more. Yet I always abide by my pretty legitimate conclusion that over-apologizing is generally better than under-apologizing.

     Somehow, I tell myself, with a growing sense of determination, I must cleanse myself of the guilt that comes with carrying around a sickness that my loved ones are emotionally subjected to and influenced by every time I flare. Even with a disease as noncontagious, invisible, and internal as arthritis, it is difficult not to feel unclean. No one seems to understand this phenomenon, yet we are surrounded by a world that often dismisses or disregards people with chronic pain and/or disabilities, and it is terrifying. How am I supposed to feel confident in my friendships when so many previous ones have succumbed to the deceptive forces of illness? How am I supposed to put on a brave face when I'm terrified of everything that has happened to me healthwise over the years? How am I supposed to cling onto the people I need the most for support when they need space to breathe, too? How am I supposed to know who to talk to about these moments of despair and when? How am I supposed to know if people actually like me or if they are just hanging out with the sick kid? I hate myself for asking these questions, but I cannot stop myself from pondering their complexities. If you ever have any answers or advice, do share.

    As you have probably figured out by now, I run an entire blog centered around living with rheumatoid arthritis. I volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation, network with other people living with autoimmune conditions, and advocate for patients. How can it be that I still have absolutely no idea what to do with my own life? I am unable to figure it all out. Some of my beliefs conflict, and some of them are underdeveloped. Living with arthritis is a jigsaw that I have been working tirelessly at for five years, yet the pieces are all jammed together, and there is no natural smoothness or skill involved. Nothing feels like it clicked right in where it was supposed to be. I am just mashing ideas where I think they might fit, hoping that along the way I will find empathy, love, and understanding but simultaneously being painfully aware that no one else can see the rest of the puzzle and that my disease will continue to be a cause of isolation.

    I do not feel hopeless by any means. I am so hopeful that I have to periodically inject myself with doses of reality. But I do not have any lovely anecdotes to share, or meaningful morals. Today was pretty rough. I looked rough, I felt rough, the world seemed kind of rough. I wish I could say that the way arthritis has changed me as a person has been worth all of the suffering, but the pain and panic have been so intense that if I could magically wave a wand and make my body healthy again I would do it in a heartbeat. I think that would make all of my friendships and conversations easier, too. Alas, this is not how the world operates. Some days are hard.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Alternative Words

     I have been thinking a lot lately about what to say when people are sick and when. The world is such an achy place, and sometimes there is no clearcut right or wrong. My joints have been especially painful today, the result of excessive walking and rainy weather. I talked with a million different people at a reunion I attended, and while my health rarely came up in conversation, I began to think more about what it means to say "the right thing."

     In the past I've written lists of what to say and what not to say, and frankly I sort of regret that approach. I think it is all much more complicated than that, because people are complicated and people are the ones who say things. I also believe that there are very few things that are truly wrong in this context, there are just some things that are better than other. I am afraid that by unintentionally creating rigid rules I may have contributed to the isolation of people just trying to support their friends.

     But realistically, I know that many people find posts like these helpful, because they want to say the best things possible at the best time possible. They are a beautiful mix of perfectionists, concerned friends, and outsiders who just want to make things better for their friend. Being a chronically ill patient does not mean that I never feel at a loss for words, either. It is difficult to know what to say to someone when they are confronted by a daunting diagnosis or relentless symptoms. What do you say to someone who is vomiting so frequently that they have made a bed out of the bathroom floor? How do you respond when a friend's prognosis is grim? I do not have all the answers. My hope is that this post will be informative and constructive despite my limited experience.

What People Say: "How are you?" 
What Is Better: Anything more specific 
Why: Some days I don't even know how to start with an answer to the friendly "How are you?" My only indication of how deep you want me to go is how well I know you, and that can be a tricky line to define. Do you want to know about how upset falling in the shower made me, or do you want me to muster up a smile and assure you that my lungs will keep breathing for you to obligatorily ask me again next week? If you want your friend to say that they are fine so that the conversation can move on, then this is a perfectly appropriate question. And sometimes, a quick response is what you want, and that is okay. But if you actually want to know how a sick person is feeling, your questions are going to need to be a little more specific without being nosy (and that's all about intention, not words). For someone like me, with a joint condition, you could ask "Are your knees hurting?" or "Are the medications helping?" For someone who recently underwent surgery you could ask, "Is the incision site painful?" or "Are you feeling better or worse than when I last saw you?" Really you can just make these up, and you will learn much more than you would by asking the more common but more vague question.

What People Say: "I hope you get better soon." 
What Is Better: "This sucks. I'm calling you tomorrow to check in." 
Why: For chronically ill patients, it may get better or it may not. But we do not need the pressure of feeling obligated to get better. Honesty is best, particularly if you are close to the chronically ill person. The assurance that a friend will be there the next day (it's not always physically possible but we live in a connected world) is comforting because it crushes the assumption that people can only handle our unpredictable illnesses in small, infrequent doses. "I hope you get better soon" is a nice sentiment, but the alternative holds more weight.

What People Say: "Call me if you need anything." 
What Is Better: "I'm walking you to class tomorrow, text me tonight so we can coordinate outfits." 
Why: This is actually something a friend said to me once, and I felt so #blessed. The truth is that we will probably never call you, because literally everyone hates that. If you want to help when we are in pain, call us. Even better, just be a little assertive and make it fun somehow. Was coordinating outfits with my friend a blast? No. Did it make the walk to class better? Strangely, yes. I suppose it just made me feel like she was having a bit of fun in a not-so-fun situation, which relieved my guilt over not being able to withstanding a simple high school hallway trampling. Further, she seemed more concerned about the outfits than about walking me to class, which assured me that it was not a big deal to her and that she was committed to helping. Obviously you may not be in a situation in which the alternative I provided is ever remotely useful, but we all find ourselves in circumstances in which adding some peculiarity can create a funny memory rather than a disaster.

What People Say: "I'm tired, too." 
What Is Better: "I'm really sorry I can't relate to you on this."
Why: Honesty. I understand why people try their very best to find points of commonality, and in fact I think it is an admirable and empathic thing to do. Yay for being human! But it can also be painfully minimizing to someone who is dealing with a chronic illness. It won't horrify us if you admit that you are unable to relate to our situation - we already know.

What People Say: "You just need to get up and get moving." 
What Is Better: "Would you rather go for a walk or stay here?" 
Why: Getting up and moving makes a lot of people feel better a lot of the time. When I have a cold, I do so much better if I am able to get out and about a bit. I crave the business and exercise of the mall, or the chaos of high school hallways, or long walks in public spaces where I can pet strangers' dogs. My mind feels numbed by a stuffy nose and hoarse cough; the only path toward reconciliation with my ailing body seems to be reuniting myself with the outside world. But the connection between moving around and feeling better does not always ring true, and while it may help you with your ailments, a chronically ill person is the expert on their health and can usually sense what will or will not be beneficial. While "You just need to get up and get moving" is intended to be encouraging, it can come across as accusatory, plus the person who says it rarely has any medical credentials. As for the alternative, providing options is almost always a good thing, and the A/B choice helps with clear communication, especially when someone is in a lot of pain.

What People Say: "How are you feeling?" 
What Is Better: "What does it feel like?"
Why: It eliminates the "fine" response, and 50% of the time I am able to think of a humorous way to describe the pain. You will probably learn more, your friend will be glad to finally answer a different question, and you may hear a creative response that makes you laugh or cry or both.

What People Say: "It's going to be okay." 
What Is Better: "I'm going to be here, no matter what." 
Why: I really struggled with whether or not to include this one, because a well-placed "It's going to be okay" from someone you know really well can be an absolute lifesaver. There have been a couple times when it has been exactly what I needed. So I do not believe in banning the phrase, but I do believe in using it sparingly and considering the alternative first (which applies to all of these phrases, actually). Sometimes "It's going to be okay" feels kind of useless. If it is going to be okay, then is my current suffering illegitimate? How do you know it is going to be okay? Is it going to be okay with just with you, since you are leaving in an hour, or will the okay-ness extend to me as well? But I really do not think you can ever go wrong with a "I'm going to be here, no matter what," because, if you are genuine about it, it is a lovely statement with the ability to concisely but effectively promise that even if things are not okay, we will not be abandoned or forgotten.

What People Say: "You seem to be feeling much better now." 
What Is Better: "How does your pain now compare to your pain earlier?"
Why: Making assumptions about how someone is feeling is just not generally a helpful thing, especially when most of us basically have degrees in lying to people and making them think we feel better than we actually do. Asking questions is always better than tacking your assumptions on a person, and I think people assume that we must be afraid of questions when really we just wish that everyone would stop making up answers in their mind.

What People Say: "Do you need an icepack?" 
What Is Better: "We have an icepack here ready for you to use." 
Why: If we have to answer "yes" to needing something, it makes us feel like an inconvenience, particularly if this is a frequent thing given our situation. Plus, what if I say "yes" but subsequently learn that you do not actually have one and that you have taken it upon yourself to go out and purchase one? That would be sweet, but it would make me feel terrible, and I would miss you during your venture out into the commercial world. Knowing that you have something prepared is comforting. One time I was working away in a class during my sophomore year, and we had a student teacher who was leading the lesson. I felt awful that day and had just barely stumbled into class (sophomore year was rough for my lower joints), but I refused my teacher's offers to retrieve my wheelchair from another classroom because I felt like it would be a burden. Little did I know that while I was doing my best to concentrate on the material and not lose my mind, my teacher went to get the wheelchair without telling me. I only found out at the end of the class, and my teacher did not make a big deal about it, but it was a real lifesaver and I will always remember the relief and gratitude I felt when I saw it there. The moral: if you think someone might need something, let them decide whether or not to use it rather than whether or not to burden you with it.

     Hopefully this is helpful. There are no exact rules, just guidelines that I've illegitimately created as a way of trying to stumble through life with arthritis. The bottom line is just give hugs, hold hands, and cry a lil' bit. It is not depressing, it is comforting. Silence is okay, too. This is going to be a super strange comparison so bear with me, but the other day I was thinking about how whenever I am feeling poorly, our four family pets always seem to sense it. Instead of whining for extra food and attention with their sarcastic meows or irritated barks, they just sit with me and nap with me. They never talk or try to magically cure me. They just roughly match my state and stay close. I'm not saying to be more like a dog, but... I think there are many areas of life in which if we were more like our beloved canines we would be better off.

     You do not have to be an eloquent speaker or quick on your feet to be friends with a chronically ill person, you just have to be compassionate. Go and screw it up. Go and learn. Go and be brave.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recovering With the Best

Our dog Lexi, who has been
napping with me this week.
   Last Wednesday I had my wisdom teeth removed and it was quite the experience. The surgery itself wasn't so bad; I was under general anesthesia so I did not feel a thing and the hospital staff were all very kind (my surgeon was fantastic). I am not always never the easiest patient, so being surrounded by supportive doctors and nurses is crucial for me. When my nurse started the process of putting in my IV, I was a train wreck. The last time I had an IV inserted, it was in one of those delicate veins on the top of my hand, and multiple nurses had to poke me several times. There ended up being blood on my hand, the bed, and the floor. But this time around was much better, because my mom was with me, there was only one nurse, she agreed to place it in the crease of my arm, and she even used lidocaine. I take every little blessing I can get.

     The worst part has just been the recovery. Luckily, I have not had much arthritis in my jaw lately and it has not seemed to flare postoperatively, which is a huge relief. I think the pain I'm experiencing now is normal, but it is always a struggle to know how much pain is too much since I have no one else to compare myself to. Unfortunately, in the midst of my medication-induced brain-fog I forgot to give myself my Orencia on Sunday night and only took it last night, so my knees, elbows, and wrists are pretty upset with me, and my right ankle even joined in the protest this morning. I looked down at my pitiful knees last night and audibly said, "Can you not," but then I just felt crazy and it certainly did not help the pain so I think I am done talking to my joints for now.

Kayla sitting in bed with me and knitting for 
a whole day while I did basically nothing but
cry, sleep, and spoon-feed myself a smoothie.
     The best part of recovery has been the people who have surrounded me with constant love and smoothies. On the day after the procedure, my friend Kayla (see Confessions and The Chronicles of Prom) came over and basically babysat me for 8 hours, which was incredibly generous of her, because I looked terrible and was reluctant to eat or sleep and there are so many other more entertaining things she could have done with her Thursday. To be honest, I don't remember most of the day, so unfortunately I don't have many funny stories to tell or moments of kindness to highlight, although I am certain they exist. Kayla texted me later to tell me that I started crying about my lips, which I thought the surgeon screwed up until about 48 hours ago, so I'm sure I was fun to put up with. Despite forgetting most of the day, I do remember trying my very best to stay awake in the afternoon, because I felt like it would be rude to fall asleep while she was there, but the pain medicine really knocks you out and I was struggling to even keep my eyelids open for more than a couple of seconds. After several attempts to logically convince me that I needed to go to sleep, she gave me some concise but firm ultimatum and I gave in. When I woke up my parents home and Kayla was gone (although she left a sweet text). Homegirl stayed with me until my parents got off work even though I was asleep. If that's not generosity, I don't know what is.

      As if that wasn't enough kindness for a year, Kayla took me to an appointment on Friday morning and came over with my friend Emily on Saturday night. The Friday morning appointment was hands down the most humiliating experience of my life, and that's saying a lot because I once didn't realize that buffalo wings were made of chicken (instead of buffalo) so I texted everyone I knew because I thought that no one else knew either. I was only having a TB test read at the appointment and picking up some forms for college, but I literally cried the whole time because the pain meds and hunger were making me so emotional. Everyone there probably thought I was crazy, but you gotta do what you gotta do and sometimes you gotta do it while you're all in your feels.

    All in all, my friends and parents have been so generous with their time this week. My friend Julianne, who recently had her own wisdom teeth removed, has been texting me advice, answering all of my questions, and assuring me that I will regain my mental health once I am able to eat normally. My mom stayed home with me the day of my surgery, and on Friday after Kayla dropped me off at my house I called my dad and both of my parents came home again. When Emily came over she brought me my favorite smoothie with a sweet "Feel Better" message on it, and my friend Taylor took me out to get smoothies on Monday (it seems like a lot of smoothies, I know, but basically all I can eat is smoothies so don't judge me). Faith is super busy with an internship this summer, but she still took the time to Facetime with me (pain meds make you miss people A LOT and I basically felt like I was going to die if I didn't get to talk to her). Finally, my whole youth group was over at my house on Sunday night, but I stayed upstairs because I was tired and weepy and afraid people would just laugh at me. But when I came down towards the end of the night, every single one of them gave me a hug and they were so nice to me even though I was a mess. Quality human beings.

     The most dedicated person of all this week has been my mother. She has held me, made me "mush" (the limited category of food I'm currently surviving on), taken off work, and kept me on track with all of my medicines. She's also dealt with all of my crying, and there has been a lot of it so that is an impressive feat.

     From the eyes of someone who is chronically ill, the pain from a wisdom tooth extraction is so minor compared to the everyday pain of arthritis. And there is so much hope in recovery! I can be certain that even though my mouth hurts now it will hurt less tomorrow. I will stop having appointments with my oral surgeon soon. She is seeing me in a window of my life - the summer I am 17 - rather than watching me grow up as my rheumatologists do. Instead of getting worse with time, the brokenness heals with time. The healing process is such a simple concept, yet it is also impossible to imagine when most of my doctor's appointments revolve around long-term care. I think I would be a much different person if I knew that at some point my arthritis would go away. Knowing that it won't takes a toll. And while remission is certainly possible and I may even be on that path myself soon, symptoms can come back at any time; there are no guarantees. So even though I am not enjoying the pain or recovery process, I am enjoying the ability to recover and I am feeling normal in that sense.

     Find people who will be nice to you when you are a mess. Find people who will love you when you have chipmunk cheeks and ice wrapped around your head. Find people who will love you when you can't stay awake even though you want to talk to them. Find people who will love you when you cry over Facetime because you miss them so much. Find people who will love you even when you are about to move away. Find people who will love you when you don't feel like yourself. Find people who will love you when loving you seems like an impossible task. They exist, they are worth having around, and they are so easy to love.