I never knew it could happen. I never knew you could feel two opposite emotions at the same time. I never experienced it until I found myself on this unfortunate journey with autoimmune disease. What does it feel like to feel 100 percent happy for another person while at the same time feeling 100 percent disappointment for yourself? Well, it is a very conflicting emotional state.
Being in the chronic illness community and encountering others with autoimmune disease, you start to hear and see that our journeys can take many different paths. But one statement I come across every so often tugs at my heart. “My medicine is working. I feel human again. I am able to function like I did before I was diagnosed.” It is the statement every patient hopes to say in their journey, but that few can truly claim.
My first feeling is happiness for the warrior who is blessed to make that statement, especially when it is a close friend. Most of us would not wish our illness on our worst enemy. It is a life I truly wish others did not have to live. I often feel sadness when I hear of a newly diagnosed person with autoimmune disease or a chronic pain syndrome. But I am truly thrilled to hear that a fellow warrior has found the right drug or right drug combo for improved health or even remission. That is what we are all fighting to achieve. I am happy to see they are able to enjoy time with their children and are resuming hobbies like running or exercising. I even am happy when I read that they are able to clean house or run errands without pain or exhaustion.
But, with the feeling of happiness for them I also have feelings of disappointment, sadness and inadequacy in my own journey. Now, if you are thinking, “She is just jealous” – you’re absolutely right, and I won’t sugarcoat it. I am jealous. Because when I read or hear of another warrior’s success with a medication that I have tried and failed it makes me think, “What was wrong with me? Where did I go wrong that I did not have the same great success?” Some of you reading this know exactly that feeling.
I have been on my rheumatoid arthritis journey for nine years. In those nine years I have been at this, I have never reached the coveted remission status; and I can count on one hand the drugs that have made me feel human again for a longish period of time. However, I have lost track of how many times I have heard from people, “Oh I know someone who has RA and they take (insert any RA drug commercial here) and are totally feeling better. They (run, golf, exercise, work full-time, insert anything you wish you could do other than living on the couch here) and thank their drugs for it.” I struggle for words as I explain that some patients, like myself, have tried those therapies and only have had a short period of relief.
While I feel these two emotions simultaneously, it gives me another realization. This is why drugs remain on the market – because someone has reached remission while taking them. And this is also why they continue to research illness and continue to develop new therapies – for people like me who are still searching for the life they had before diagnosis.
For our newbies, I need to insert a disclaimer here since these words are not to discourage you. Remission does happen and medications do work for some patients. As you are learning each case of autoimmune disease is quite different, even if you share the same diagnoses with another person. My experiences may not be your future.
I am writing this because I know there are other warriors who feel both emotions at once like me. Somewhere the world has decided that we can’t be both happy and disappointed at the same time. I am here to say that you can and it is normal. There was even a whole Disney movie based on emotions working together while becoming an adult and learning that two emotions at once can benefit a person’s life (“Inside Out” – if you haven’t watched it I highly recommend it). The important thing is that while we feel those two emotions we remain hopeful in our own journey and continue to encourage our fellow warriors in their journey.
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