Thoughts on quitting

Have you ever wished you could just “quit” RA? You know – just say “All right, I’ve had enough. I quit. I’m not going to deal with this anymore.”

Kelly Young, who writes the excellent RA blog “Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior” has a post up today that covers this theme. Young writes about how tired she is of RA, and how tired she is of hurting, and of having to forego social events, and having to tell others that she hurts, or having to explain to others yet again what rheumatoid arthritis is and how it affects her daily life. She’s tired of not telling others that she’s in pain, hoping that she won’t be thought of as a whiny wimp. She’s very, very tired of having RA.

Her post has been up for less than 24 hours. Already it has attracted many comments from readers, nearly all of whom agree with her wholeheartedly and wish they could “quit” too. In her response to one of them, a 17-year-old with RA, Young writes, “… You said what I tried so hard to say. I think that’s what I say in my mind: ‘I can’t even give up.’ Lately, I’d really like to quit – but how?”

There’s no doubt about it, RA gets mighty old mighty fast. I’m one of the lucky ones whose disease seems to be under control – I have pain, but it’s minor compared to what it has been in the past, and it’s isolated itself to my wrists and hands. But I get tired of RA, too. I wish I could “quit” it. I’m tired of swallowing handfuls of pills every day. I’m tired of losing my hair because of my medications. I’m tired of getting blood drawn every six weeks and tired of doctor appointments. I’m tired of RA’s sudden, vicious, painful jabs when I heedlessly pick up a plate or pull up the blankets on my bed to make it. I’m tired of the way it reminds me, constantly, that it’s part of my life, part of me.

And I’m tired of having to ask others for help with simple things, like opening a jar or folding laundry.

But I can’t quit RA. Like Kelly and her young commenter, and like all of you reading this today, I have no choice but to get on with my life the best I can in spite of it. As a “glass-half-full” sort of person, I try to look at the deeper meaning of my life with RA. This disease has made me much more mindful of the small gifts I receive each day. It’s made me far more tolerant and patient with others than I might be, were I always “normal.” These are good things, but it’s easy to lose my focus when I hurt.

While I don’t feel courageous in the least, when I step back and look with a cool and detached attitude at how I get along each day, I know that I am brave. Living with constant, variable pain takes courage and a good deal of fortitude. It takes grit. I’m very good at clamping my teeth and just going on with whatever it is I need to do, but if I’m honest, there’s more to it than simple bravery.

There’s also the raw fact that I haven’t any choice in the matter, and no matter how hard I fight. No matter how much I want to “quit” RA, RA won’t quit me.

Wait. Let me take that back. I do have a choice. I could simply give up. take a bottleful of strong painkillers or walk in front of a bus. But as bad as my RA has been at times over the last 23 years — and it has been bad — killing myself has never been a real choice for me. I love living too much, even if I have to contend with pain and disability. I like hearing the wrens sing and the watching the towhees hop around my garden. I love the sound of the rain pattering on the roof. I like how the world looks when it snows, and I love my family and friends, I’d miss them too much to just give it all up. I also would never want to hurt them that way.

When it comes down to brass tacks, I realize that before my end comes, as it inevitably will, I still have way too much I want to do. Too many places I still want to go, and too many things I want to try.

I guess what that means is that I’ve learned to accept my RA, unwanted though it is. When I think back to the bad times, when it was hurting me so much that simply standing sometimes seemed – and sometimes was – impossible, I know that there’s something in me that simply won’t allow me to quit. I’ve done so much in my life in spite of my pain, and those are accomplishments that I treasure now in my memory. I did them anyway.

And I know that I’ll continue to do that. I hang on to the hope that someday, somehow, medical science will find a cure for this disease. At the rate science is advancing in this day and age, I even have hope that it will happen in my lifetime. And in the end, isn’t life just hope?

Rheumatoid arthritis, for better or worse, isn’t something we can just “quit.” That means we have to keep on keeping on. And if we can do it while still finding joy and laughter in the world around us, well, then maybe it’s not so bad after all.

11 thoughts on “Thoughts on quitting

  1. Very well said. Bravo!
    A couple months ago I started a post titled Where Do I Go To Resign?, but it’s still sitting in my drafts folder, half-finished.

    I’m glad to hear that you’re still planning to be around for a while, Wren 😀


  2. Let’s all have a “quit party” or instead of an old-fashioned “quilting” lets have a “quitting” hehe! I agree with staying positive. There are days when I feel almost normal and almost forget I have RA but those are few and far between these days. Hopefully with summer coming…these joints will breathe a sigh of relief! I love that you mentioned joy and laughter….my daughter keeps my highly entertained and we laugh so much. She is so funny! Great times….even playing Monopoly and trying to get up from sitting too long is well worth it 🙂 This has been a hard winter for my RA and side effects of medications but something I have never given up is laughter….it really does help you get through the day. Thanks for this post…as always it was awesome 🙂


  3. Very poignant post…I suppose as you say the only way to really quit is in a wooden box, six feet under and like you I’m not ready to go there yet. Sunday though I admit, I cam awfully close. I’d baked a lemon meringue pie and when I took it out of the oven and carried it to an open window to cool, it dropped out of my hands and landed upside down on the floor. There was goo and meringue everywhere, it was gross. I cried, called my husband who gallantly helped me clean up the mess and give me a big hug. As he said at the time, it could have been worse, I could have been hurt. Take care…ciao


  4. I’m glad you’re planning on sticking around, too, Wren! What would we do without you?? And you are brave! In fact you’re awesome, because you choose to deal with the crap hand you’ve been dealt with incredible grace and poise and by helping the rest of us out with your kind words and support. So brava to you!


  5. Wonderful post, as always! I flip-flop back and forth: once in a while I NEED to quit RA, but most of the time I feel like this is my life, and I can deal with it. Life is good, despite the RA. Cheers!


  6. “I love living too much, even if I have to contend with pain and disability. I like hearing the wrens sing and the watching the towhees hop around my garden. I love the sound of the rain pattering on the roof. I like how the world looks when it snows, and I love my family and friends, I’d miss them too much to just give it all up. I also would never want to hurt them that way.” Thanks for the reminder.


  7. I do have moments in which I get incredibly uptight about RA and think about having a hissy fit (not taking my meds, plowing ahead with something even though I ache, etc.). But then I think about my mother’s husband, who literally has gone blind from not taking care of himself in the midst of his diabetes. He’s a dumbass; I’m no dumbass. Ultimately, intellect wins out and emotions calm down.

    You know, I also think that we all, to some extent, just gradually get used to slight and major disability here and there.

    Having RA is like growing old. For example, when your sight starts to go and you need reading glasses, you’ll initially deal with trying to focus on the written word by holding books and Kindles at arm’s length. Then you’ll finally relent and get reading glasses.

    Many of the changes that RA has caused in my life have been gradual ones, and I’ve come to learn to live with them: I can’t twist bottle caps and jar tops; I can’t bound out of bed in the morning (and sometimes once I’m out of bed, I wind up sitting on the commode for much longer, due to my inability to get up!), I need help doing the laundry…. All little things.

    RA is a disease of encroachment. Maybe that makes it “easy” in some ways. But maybe that makes it the scariest thing of all.


  8. Beautiful post. Despite all that this disease does to us, there are still so many good things in life. As wonderful as it would be to “quit” chronic illess, since that’s not an option I’d much rather stick around lumps and all to experience all of the good stuff.


  9. Pingback: Encroachment « RheumaBlog

  10. I’ve come very close to ‘quitting’. The combination of chronic physical illness (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia) and chronic mental illness (bipolarism) is very dangerous. I’ve had periods where my friends and family had to pass me from one to the next because I couldn’t be left alone without being a hazard to myself. It’s especially hard because even when I am most in favor of ‘quitting’, some part of me is fiercely in favor of staying alive. That twist gets painful, a war between parts of myself as to whether or not it’s worth continuing.



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