Internet Inspiration

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There are countless memes and posts of “word inspiration” splashed all over social media every second of the day, I’d argue. Many of them probably scroll right by you, unnoticed, like they do for me. I usually try to avoid them, actually, because I find most of them trite and irritating. However, there are some posts that cause me to pause, as I feel their words resonate in some way. I’ve also gotten into the habit of taking screenshots of the ones I like using my iPhone to save their messages for further reflection–or if I need a little pick-me-up. I was looking through the large collection of photos I’ve amassed on my phone the other day and found some of these little nuggets of positivity, truth, and inspiration that I had saved. The quotes/posts are all from Instagram pages and many of them are chronic illness-related.

Here are some that I like from my collection:

1. “Let whatever you do today BE ENOUGH.” –Unknown

Most of the time I feel like I’m not doing enough or being productive enough. I feel like I’m always lagging behind and fighting to play catch-up, and I know that my RA pain and fatigue plays a large role in this. I used to be an almost obsessive straight-A student (although also a procrastinator) when I was in high school and during some of college, before my RA attacked my life. I prided myself on working hard and accomplishing things. Now I feel like congratulating myself (not really) if I drag my body out of bed and get my teeth brushed before noon. I think lately the fatigue and lethargy of chronic illness is maybe getting in my way more than the pain. It’s hard to know for sure, though, because they often trade off back and forth. Despite knowing that I’m not like other healthy, able-bodied people my age, and that I face each day with tremendous physical (and emotional) challenges, I still beat myself up a lot, feeling like I should be doing more than I am. This quote is a good reminder to give myself a much-deserved break and to be a little bit kinder to myself when I’m doing the best I can while living with this painful and debilitating disease.

2. “I am not lazy, I am on energy saving mode” –Unknown via @girlboss

Living with an invisible illness, it’s easy to appear lazy or apathetic to people who can’t see or understand the severity or frequency of your pain on a daily basis. It’s ironic, in a way, that people would think this about RA patients because some of the most hard-working and motivated people I know live with RA. We’re not lazy. We’re sick. And, while living with a sickness that never goes away and gives no promise of ever going away, we fight hard to live active, productive, and meaningful lives. Most people have no idea how much physical and mental energy RA steals from us.

3. “You don’t have to have one of these: [an image of a wheelchair] to have one of these: [an image of a disability parking permit]” –via @collection_of_thoughtss

The “invisible illness problem” strikes again. How many times do you think people with RA who use disability parking permits have been insulted and yelled at by “do-gooders” for needing parking accommodations? A lot. I’ve heard several stories of this happening to personal RA friends of mine and from others. I’m kind of shocked that nobody has yelled at me yet for using my disability permit, but I’m sure it will happen sooner or later. What’s the problem? Why are people harassing us? Well, many of us with RA do not look sick or disabled on the outside. It’s even worse if you’re young and don’t have noticeable physical signs of pain or disability (this is me). I try to not use my permit unless I really need it, but whenever I do, I always feel very awkward and self-conscious. I often try to hurry away from my car as fast as possible before some grandma shoots me the stink-eye. Just because I look “fine” on the outside doesn’t mean that I’m not in pain and need to minimize the amount of walking I do when out and about. Personally, I have a damaged right ankle that’s endured two unsuccessful surgeries and it’s in a constant state of pain. I hate using my parking permit, but I do often need it.

4. “Your body hears everything your mind says.” –via @drwillcole 

I firmly believe that everything is connected regarding our health: body, mind, and spirit/soul. This quote is a good reminder that your attitude and thoughts and emotional/mental state can greatly affect your physical body, and your RA. When I’m in a positive mood, energized, and happy, my RA and pain “mysteriously” improve. The exact opposite happens when I’m feeling stressed and frustrated and I dwell on negative feelings and things in life–my RA “mysteriously” flares up. I need to constantly remember to try to pull myself out of darkness and negativity because it makes my RA and overall health so much worse.

5. “You’re still sick?…YES” –via @collection_of_thoughtss

Some people don’t understand what it means to have a chronic illness. It’s chronic; it doesn’t go away. Ever. It’s probably easy for my family and friends (and others) to forget that I’m sick because I don’t go around talking or complaining about it constantly (at least I try not to!). I try to live as “normal” a life as possible. However, my life and health is anything but normal. RA haunts me day and night and is a permanent weight burdening everything I feel and do. Yes, believe it or not, I’m still sick. I wish I weren’t–20 years is long enough.

6. “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” –Frida Kahlo via @girlboss

I really love this quote and I love that it’s by the fierce and fearless Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. If you don’t know who she is, I highly suggest you do a little googling. Frida, herself, suffered from debilitating physical pain as the result of a severe accident. In 1925, at the age of 18, the wooden bus she was riding collided with a streetcar. Several people were killed, and Kahlo suffered nearly fatal injuries—an iron handrail impaled her through her pelvis, fracturing the bone. She also fractured several ribs, her legs, and her collarbone. She suffered from illness and pain for the rest of her life. She had also contracted polio at age six, which made her right leg shorter and thinner than her left. Despite her pain and all of the frustrations and challenges that resulted from her poor health, she went on to create brilliant and beautifully moving paintings. Her work especially became well-known and associated with her self-portraits. Her quote strongly resonates with me because it’s true. At the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can. We have to and we do.

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