When you see me at work in the morning, you don’t know what it took just to get me in the door. I drive with the heated seats on, air conditioning blowing, tennis ball lodged between my hip and the center console, an ice pack around my knee, and pain meds on board. Even with all of that, I am still typically gripping the steering wheel in pain, just trying to get to work so I can get out of the car and move my joints.
When you see me at the gym, wearing my headphones, working out next to you, you don’t see what it took to get me there. You don’t know that every afternoon, my pain increases substantially, a fever sets in..I feel like I have the flu. Every. Day. I have to convince myself to go to the gym because I know the movement is good for me. There are days I cry on the commute to the gym but power through because I won’t let this disease dictate every single thing I do.
When you see me park in the handicapped spot at Target and get out of the car, smiling at my daughter, you don’t see the struggle behind my happy face. You don’t know that one good trip to Target will knock me out for the day. You don’t know that my daughter says she enjoys going with me because I’m funny and we have a good time, but that I know she knows that I need help.
If there is one blessing I’ve gotten from my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis, it is that I’m aware of what I might not be seeing. I encourage you to not judge those with a chronic illness, to not question the amount of pain they are in, or how awful their suffering really is. And to go a step further, when you see someone slowly walking across the road, instead of feeling frustrated that they are slowing you down, take a minute to realize that she may be going as fast as she can.