Ever since developing Rheumatoid Arthritis at the tender age of nine, endless people (mostly strangers) have praised me for being ‘brave’. Initially, I was flattered hearing what I thought were simple compliments and felt they were well-deserved. After all, spending months on end in and out hospital like a yo-yo, being poked and prodded in all manner of places, and desperately trying to fend off a horrific chronic condition that would eventually leave all my joints functioning at below 50 per cent, took bucket loads of courage.
However, as time went on, constantly hearing the phrase ‘you’re so brave’ really started to irritate me. Telling someone with a disability that they’re brave may sound like a compliment but it is indeed a micro-aggression. To put it bluntly – you’d never tell a lawyer who doesn’t live with a disability that they’re brave for having a career so why mention it to me? Is it because you assume people with disabilities sponge off the Government and are incapable of holding down a job let alone a career? Besides, these days I’m far from brave and when given a choice typically prefer to play it safe. But not anymore.
Having lived in fear of Covid-19 for almost two years and now finally coming to the stark realisation that we must all learn to live alongside this dreaded disease I’m determined to make 2022 my year for being brave. On 1 January, I promised myself to stop feeling terrified of Covid-19 and live more courageously by taking the following positive steps to build my own version of a brave new world.
- For starters I’m going to have a proper crack at banishing negative thought patterns (or self-limiting beliefs) and aim to avoid turning any future setback of which I’m sure there’ll be plenty into a catastrophe. In a similar vein, I’ll stop predicting the future, including self-diagnosing and will no longer allow fear to drive my decision-making. Instead, I’ll gather all the relevant facts and if appropriate speak to an expert (eg a doctor) before making a decision on what to do next. And as well as preparing for the worst case scenario, which in most instances don’t even come to pass, I’ll focus my attention on any steps I can take to mitigate and / or potential solutions.
- I’ll focus on challenges that are within my gift to fix whilst for any that are beyond my control, I’ll acknowledge they exist before putting them to bed. This is especially important regarding my ageing parents. I still struggle to fathom the idea of them eventually passing but now appreciate this is beyond my control. The best I can do is offer practical support so they stay well and to spend as much quality time with them as possible.
- I’ll face my fear of Covid-19 head-on and learn to cope with the inevitable curveballs it’ll throw my way. Just like the way I successfully learnt to live with my disability by making practical adjustments to my home environment (eg grab rails, step free shower etc) I’ll take all relevant mitigating steps to reduce my risk of becoming ill. I’ll make my decisions after carefully evaluating the risks against potential rewards and stop fear alone dictating my future behaviour.
- As well as trying not to over-dramatise mistakes, I’m going to use each and every one as a learning opportunity and keep moving forward.
- Finally, I’m going to think positively and be optimistic about the future. I’ll also practice self-care and spend time each day doing something calming and relaxing, including guided meditation, mindfulness puzzles or simply picking up the phone and catching up with an old friend.