"Activity and Recovery are key"

Activity and Recovery are key

When Sigrid Bergåkra was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she initially did not want to accept that she had a chronic diagnosis. Now she has realised how important it is to balance life in order to feel as good as possible.

Who are you?

My name is Sigrid Bergåkra, I am 47 years old and l run Bergåkra farm in Hälsingland, which is also where I live. The farm is a horse facility where Naturlära Ridgymnasium, which I partly own, also runs its operations.

What happened when you started with RA?

I remember I was at the Falsterbo Horse Show and had lots of horses in both the semi-finals and finals. It was around 2011-2012 and I had been feeling tired and hungry for a long time. I sought medical advice and then got to meet a rheumatologist. I had faulty breast implants that had leached poison. This in turn led to an autoimmune reaction, which the doctor believes triggered my RA.

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it was tough. From the outside, I think only my immediate family noticed anything. It was frustrating and I felt sad, angry and desperate. I tried not to lose the facade most people could see, but felt I just wanted to kick out and scream inside. This anger was probably about being angry with myself, that it was my fault. I was depressed.

The biggest problem for me was accepting I was sick and understanding how serious it was, going to my doctor's visits and taking the medicine I was prescribed. I was raised to be super strong, to be a "good girl" and do everything myself. I had no desire to be sick. I didn't want things like a disease to fill up my calendar. Now it's better.

What’s important to you to help you feel good?

Activity and recovery are key. I try to  stand, walk and move around instead of sitting for long meetings. I need to find a rhythm in what I do, and when I do I can keep going for quite a while. When we are out in the stable all day, I need a balance between resting enough and surrounding myself with joy, great people and fun.

The fact I have such pleasant surroundings means a lot to me. I need to have animals and nature around me and know that my family is doing well. I need to eat well and pamper myself sometimes, swim and sauna, do things that make me feel better.

One of the most important things that makes me feel good is the horses, which are a real treat in my life. When I ride I get a break. I have managed things in my life, and things can always be solved along the way. That became my engine in some way, that I can actually manage this somehow. The driving force is to do what I want to do; the things I am passionate about.

What are you thinking about now that you have an RA diagnosis?

One thing I thought a lot about is how I have become even more careful about my close relations. It has become important to get rid of things that are not working and take care of what is most important. I have simply peeled away the things I don't need so I have the energy to focus on my loved ones.

I have also reflected on how social media affects me. I think being constantly accessible is stressful. I want to be able to pull the blanket over me sometimes without everyone always being able to reach me. For me it is important to be able to disappear for a while and then come back and perform again.

When I get the question "how do you manage all this?" I answer: "do I have a choice?". It is so important to find what is fun and wonderful in life, even when things are difficult. I try to think about what I can do instead of getting frustrated by the things I can't.