Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Game You Will Always Lose

Welcome to the Casino of Chronic Illness!
Comparisons are a natural human tendency. We all want to know how we measure up to the next guy. They also help us make sense of our world; which coffee is best, your favorite wine, how you spend your free time. However, there are two sides to the comparison coin. Flip it in chronic illness' casino and you'll win some, and absolutely bust others.

Are you ready to play the comparison game?

 Inside the casino, you join a game at the RA poker table. 

Let's watch to see who fares the best:

  1. The 50-year-old former beauty: bird-like and spindly, lives in a nursing home, unable to physically care for herself. 
  2. The 20 year RA veteran: successfully manages the disease with minimal medication, pain, and a full head of hair despite years on Methotrexate
  3. The 40-year-old, doubly-diagnosed RA/AS'er: has a fused spine, unable to wash her own hair. 
  4. The 60-year-old diagnosed years ago: manages her illness with daily yoga and minimal drugs. She doesn't look sick. 
  5. The 70-year-old musician: forced to quit her passion due to the joint damage in her hands.
  6. YOU

    As the players do their thing, let's examine the game.

    When you win a round of the comparison game, you get a little boost. Hooray! You're smarter, more attractive, and have a generally less screwed up life than the lady next door. BUT, there is a hidden danger here. Relying on that high will keep you craving more; you'll never be satisfied because you don't own your situation, feel good in your own skin. Over time you become addicted to that little external validation. And eventually you will lose, (Oh shit, the lady next door doesn't need a cane to walk, and can get pregnant just by looking at a man's dongle) and when you do, it can feel devastating. Now we know better than to compare our situation to the general public. We simply can't do some of the things they can.

    Another don't? Don't compare your current situation to your life pre-diagnosis. That sucks too. I know that I can't dance, roller blade, or hike anymore. That makes me sad. But I can't waste my precious time and energy focusing on the have-nots, or in this case the can-nots. What requires my undivided attention is the state that I am currently in, and how I can best care for myself. And who knows, down the road I may pick up naked salsa ice dancing. Cha, cha, cha!

    One thing I know for sure about chronic illness is that it is unpredictable.

    So we shouldn't compare ourselves to the "healthy," we shouldn't compare ourselves pre and post diagnosis, there is still one more kind of comparison that sucks. Do you know what it is? We'll be right back to the RA National Poker Championship after a word from our sponsors...


    1. Great post, Sunshine:)
      This was a great reminder to everyone (especially women!) - comparison games can never be won!

    2. Ha ha! Taken from years of experience on that front!

    3. Isn't that the truth. Being someone that was diagnosed 2 years ago at 19 years old, I can't help but compare myself to everyone around me... they go out dancing on the weekends, I limp in pain walking from the parking lot to work :/ it's a never ending battle that I will, unfortunately, never win...

    4. Emilie,
      I miss dancing too. A lot.
      I remember having days this past winter when I was unable to balance my purse with my cane, and I kept dropping my ID in the snow. It took 10 minutes just to trek 50 feet. I also remember crying. A lot.
      Then you catch a day, or just a part of one where you forget that you have RA. I live for those moments.
      It can be frustrating, depressing, and frightening; and then the sun will peek through.
      Seize those moments and soak them up. And know that you aren't alone in this.
      Take Care,