Having a chronic illness comes with a lot of stigmas…you’re weak, you’re fragile, you can’t…
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 18 months old. Although I played several sports when I was young, for a long time I had the mindset of “I can’t”, especially when it involved being physical. That mindset stayed with me as I grew older and while I have always loved working out at the gym, I would stay away from things I thought I couldn’t do, like running or certain leg exercises that would hurt my arthritic knee.
After I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and especially after my four surgeries, I started noticing that other people thought that I “couldn’t” as well. I started to see that they had this impression of me that because of everything I had gone through I was fragile. I know of course that this mindset of theirs wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t meant to make me feel bad but it did. I have never seen myself as a weak person and I didn’t want others to think of me that way. I noticed comments people would make including that I could sit out while the others did something physical, or asking me what I actually did when I worked out and then being surprised at the answer because for some reason they didn’t think I actually worked out when I went to the gym.
Lately all of this has been bugging me more and more so I’ve decided to do something about it, not only to prove others wrong, but to prove to myself that I can do it. So, last weekend I did my first 5k mud run and let me tell you, it was a blast! Sure, my arthritic knee hurt while I was training for it. I was one of the slowest on our team. But I did every obstacle, ran/walked the whole thing, and I finished. I know for some people a 5k is simple. But for me it was a challenge. When I told some people I was doing a mud run, I know they were surprised and didn’t think I’d be able to do it. But I proved them wrong. And I’m not stopping there. I’m signed up for another 5k in three weeks and I’m determined to finish it even if it means walking most of it. And I’m not naïve. I know I probably shouldn’t be doing these runs because it’s not good for my knee (and I know my rheumatologist would have a fit if he knew what I was doing) but I’m determined at least to finish the 5k that’s coming up. After that, maybe I’ll think of something else to do to challenge myself and to keep proving to myself and others that I can. There are so many things I’d like to do that I never thought I could before: Rock climbing, biking, long hikes…Who knows what it will be but I know now that as long as I take care of myself and listen to my body, my possibilities are endless.