"There is a difference between being healthy and feeling good"
She does not want to expend more energy than necessary fighting her chronic pain, and in spite of it, she has several strategies for living a good and meaningful life. Elsa has spoken with Eva, who has lived with her diagnosis for over 40 years and shares her warmth, wisdom, and life-affirming attitude.
Eva is a 56-year-old who lives in Luleå and was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) at the age of 14. She works in IT and has a degree in Public Health Sciences. For Eva, research on health and well-being plays a crucial role, and she has a blog where she relays her own experiences and reflections interspersed with research in the field.
“Feeling good is an art. There are no quick fixes. Instead, it involves many factors that are at play—what I eat, if I exercise, how I plan my day, and if work is stressful,” says Eva. “I like trying and exploring different approaches to feel good.”
Give up the fight against pain
Eva has lived the majority of her life with chronic pain. She explains that what has helped her most is choosing how she views her own life:
“Fighting pain takes an enormous amount of energy, and it is a fight that I cannot win. Instead of striving for a life free from pain, I can focus on what I want from life, making sure it is as rewarding and healthy as possible.”
She explains that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT (pronounced ‘act’) has been really helpful. Simply put, ACT is about two things: identifying what you believe is important in life and taking solid steps towards this. This method is used as a form of therapy to treat those suffering from chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and chronic diseases.
“In ACT people usually talk about the wheel of life. Imagine a circle that is divided into slices of cake, where each slice represents an aspect of life, eg., health, relationships, and work. This can help you to reflect on how each aspect of your life is working right now. Which aspects do I need to improve? What can I do to achieve this improvement?”
Do not compare yourself to others
For Eva, it is also important to avoid comparing herself to others. She believes that everyone is fighting their own battles. Many people carry emotional baggage of some kind, maybe they endured a difficult upbringing, or have suffered from unemployment.
“These things can’t be seen on the outside. I never know someone else’s situation, and that’s why I don’t want to compare myself or envy anyone. The only thing I can do is live my life in the best way possible.”
And to do just that Eva has some advice she is eager to share:
Choose activities with care—do more of what makes you happy. Write a list of what you enjoy doing. In my case, I start my day with colorful clothes—anything from socks with a floral pattern to a red sweater. I also enjoy biking and clearing weeds.
Focus on what you are capable of doing. It is actually tough for my hands to clear weeds, but I set a timer so I do not keep weeding too long. Then it works out well!
Read, listen and learn more. Gain knowledge of different approaches towards feeling better, but do not overcomplicate things. It is often the small changes that make the greatest difference in the long run. For example, I try to find out what causes my pain so I can avoid it. Elsa is a great tool to see these associations.
Meet others. Join an association for rheumatism or something similar to have the opportunity to be with others who face the same challenges as you.
Remember, there is a difference between being healthy and feeling good. I have a chronic disease, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel good. I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve, and I try to make sure I feel as good as possible.