Joy is something that we feel robbed of when dealing with everyday symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and doctor appointments. When I first developed RA, I felt lonely and isolated. I couldn’t do things I used to do that brought me joy, especially during the holidays, like attend parties, drink or even be on my feet for long. Connecting with people on social media expanded my horizons about ways to find joy. Now, I send people positive messages to bring them joy, which also makes me happy. I’ve sent so many of these that now I receive them, too, when I least expect it. I’ve even gotten videos of people from across the country singing happy birthday to me. I am still participating in society, I just do it a little differently than others. I might not be somewhere in person, but when I send some simple words spreading joy, people know they are in my heart and mind.
I have always been a joyful person, but my complete loss of eyesight as a result of juvenile arthritis [JA] and my two young daughters’ diagnoses with JA, I have learned that joy is a choice. As a Christian woman of faith, I allowed God to teach me how to truly walk by faith and not by sight or on pure emotions. God began showing me the true meaning of joy even when the circumstances looked hopeless. Every single day I make the choice to begin the day on a joyful note. My story of hope, perseverance and love is changing lives all over the world! If it were not for our challenges and my faith in Jesus, I wouldn’t have this beautiful perspective. I believe when you choose joy, you find strength, hope and purpose.
Gratitude is about slowing down enough to really notice joy, beauty, what’s funny and what’s good. It’s about experiences instead of things and remembering that I am a lucky woman. This is easier during the holidays, when reminders of love and all we have to be thankful for are all around, but I try to practice gratitude every day. Taking note of positive things and talking to positive people help. Going out with my camera to capture the beauty of the world always makes me feel better, and there’s nothing like sitting quietly with a purring cat on my lap to appreciate the present. Life isn’t about perfection or about stuff, but about love. Finding a way to express that – toward others, toward myself – is at the center of how I cultivate gratitude.
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- Support Groups Can Help You Cope With Arthritis