Our view of the world can differ from day to day. We all know that Mondays are evil, and Fridays are our salvation. But they are both just days in the week, aren’t they? I also certainly find that my tolerance increases as the week goes on. The simplest of things can annoy me on a Monday, but on a Friday it takes a near apocalyptic event to dent my day. It’s our perceptions of those days that makes them what they are, which in turn determines how we respond to these events as they happen.
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. – Abraham Lincoln
Life with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is challenging, life altering, and exhausting. Our bodies often feel like thorn bushes. And I don’t just mean metaphorically either! But have you found your roses? Or do you feel like your roses have been taken away, and all you have left are thorns? It’s very easy to feel like both simultaneously.
We have to accept early on when diagnosed with AS that life will change. We may find there are things we can no longer do, and our employment and social life may well suffer as a result. It is very easy to look back and think about the things we used to enjoy, but we can no longer do or have with a sense of yearning. How we deal with this will shape our day / week / month / year.
Recently I have been trying to gain my perspective back. Focusing on the things I can do, rather than the things I can’t has always kept me going. This positive mentality has been just as important in managing my AS as the medications and exercise have.
Recently two things have happened to me that made me temporarily loose my roses. Both of which involve my new role in life – Dad. Both of which used to seem innocuously easy. Bathing my son, and pushing him on his swing set. Both of which now cause me significant ‘discomfort’.
So what did I do about it? Well after some thought I decided to change my approach. Instead of feeling ‘left out’ and guilty for not being able to bath my son – and leaving it to my loving wife – I decided to make use of myself by helping with other tasks that my help after he finished his bath. Such as: getting his clothes / pyjamas ready, making sure there’s a clean towel for him, or get his bedtime milk ready. It’s truly amazing how much can be achieved when a toddler is occupied and out of the way!!!
The swing situation was an easy fix in the end. I bought nice new outdoor chair. So now I just sit down and push him instead.
Having perspective is more than just having a positive attitude. Its deeper than that. It encompasses not just your AS and its symptoms, but your personal beliefs, social circumstance, and your family standing. In short, everything that makes you you.
Perception is a paradigm, and an ethos. Changing your thought processes and the way that you approach a challenge is not easy. But it can be done. Concentrate on what’s important in life, and find ways in which you can still do them. Adjustments will be needed, but finding inventive ways to tackle new challenges is half the fun!
I know I will never be a professional sportsman. But my AS doesn’t stop me from watching sport and enjoying sport. So I can still be part of the sporting community. That’s my perspective.
How do you approach new challenges? What tips do you have for helping people to concentrate on the positives? Do you feel like a rose bush, or a thorn bush?