What I Have Learned From Ankylosing Spondylitis and Tai Chi

Sometimes, someone comes into your life, so unexpectedly, takes your heart by surprise, and changes your life forever. (Journal prompt)

For myself, it’s two entities. Ankylosing spondylitis and tai chi.

Getting diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis earlier this year has turned my life and view 180°. Things I used to be able to do and maintain I can no longer. Sometimes, having to be resistant to my body and mind; being so stubborn and ending up in more pain than what’s already there. Lessons learned. Being able to go the distance, being able to be there for others like a superhero and giving my last bit of reserves of energy (however this looks), I can’t anymore. It has all changed now.


People are always asking, “Is there a cure?” The answer is no, as for right now. Even when a flooding of suggestions and treatments comes in, it’s with a half-hearted tone that the same words will be spoken: “I’m sorry. I can’t do that (whatever treatment or activity) anymore. And yes, I’ve already tried that; it doesn’t work for my condition.”

Having to deal with others is another thing. The ones who have decided to stick around after this winding path of illness and multiple misdiagnoses with their frustrations. I know it’s not towards me. It’s toward the condition. Also, other than little bits of assistance, there isn’t much else that can be done.

I call myself similar to a tortoise now. Moving at a much slower pace physically and mentally than the whirlwind I was used to not too long ago. I used to look at days as either good or bad. Now, I happen to look at days just as they are. It is what it is. I believe being able to practice tai chi is helping. Carrying those facets of practicing into my daily life and shifting my mindset.

Even though I am a beginner, I will consider myself this for as long as I live. Each practice and each day starts anew. There is always something different, even if movements, events or chronic pain may look or feel the same.

This is some of what this tortoise has learned so far.

– Be gentle with yourself. Not too hard or rigid.

– If your body aches or life is throwing so much at you that you feel overwhelmed, it is OK to rest. Give yourself that permission and don’t be critical. Go inside your shell and rest.

– If others cannot or do not want to understand what you are dealing with, that’s on them. Conserve whatever energy you have for whatever your needs are. Remember, you are a tortoise now.

– There is nothing wrong with going slow. Others may say you are taking too long or exhibit body language telling you to hurry up. Don’t worry about that. You will still get to your destination. It just takes a little bit longer now. Also, you may need even further support like a helping hand, a walking stick, taking breaks or delaying the journey for the time being.

– Most importantly, being with ankylosing spondylitis does not make you a failure. It is not your fault for what has happened and whatever changes had to be made to fit your life now. If anything, you have a life filled with more self-compassion, purpose and awareness than you probably did before. And being more present in your life is not a bad thing.

This post originally appeared on nature reset.

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Thinkstock photo via MarkgrafAve.

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