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3 Ways Realistic Hope Has Helped Me Manage Early-Onset Osteoarthritis

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Creating a sense of realistic hope has been a powerful tool to help me better cope with early-onset osteoarthritis.

Realistic hope is seeing the future for what it is and creating expectations, goals, dreams around that future. For me, this means knowing an ankle fusion is a very real possibility in the next few years and in order to maintain an active lifestyle, I’ll need to find new activities and hobbies. At 39, I’m too young for an ankle replacement and the osteoarthritis is so advanced that other potential treatments are not viable options. It’s neither good or bad (OK…it’s really not that good), but it is the reality of my situation.

man sitting outside by a lake

Only after I was able to develop a strong sense of a realistic hope was I then better able to manage my osteoarthritis. Here are three ways realistic hope can help with learning to better manage early-onset osteoarthritis:

1. Managing Physical Expectations

Knowing one’s body and it’s limits will help to set realistic expectations about what type of activities can and can’t be done due to osteoarthritis. Feeling too confident or thinking a certain activity can’t be done anymore will only hinder one’s ability to manage their osteoarthritis. With my severe ankle osteoarthritis, backpacking trips are a thing of the past. Because I’ve come to accept I can no longer do certain activities, I have the freedom to find new and more osteoarthritis-friendly ones to try out.

2. Realizing Everyone Is Different

Osteoarthritis affects people in many different ways. There are those who are able to play tennis, go for hikes, run or work in the garden. But just because some people can do something doesn’t necessarily mean everyone with OA can.

After all these years, I still find myself saying, “I wish I could do that!” when I see people with osteoarthritis going on backpacking trips or playing basketball, but the condition of my ankle doesn’t allow me to do those activities as much as I would like, or at all. Regardless of one’s age or condition of their OA, everyone has their own activity level limits. Only when I stopped comparing myself to other people with OA was I able to manage my OA in the best way possible for me.

man sitting on a log during a backpacking trip

3. Creating Emotional and Physical Well-Being

Being realistic about how osteoarthritis will affect one’s lifestyle will help keep emotions and physical well-being in check. It’s easy to lose focus managing OA after being diagnosed at a younger age, and facing decades of stiff and sore joints can feel overwhelming. However, realistic hope can help to create a sense of emotional and physical well-being because you’re being true to yourself. Only after you’ve been able to be true to yourself will you then be able to work towards a stable emotional and physical well-being.

I was diagnosed with ankle osteoarthritis in my late 20s. Being diagnosed at an early age was difficult for me to accept and I went through a rollercoaster of emotions that first year. Only when I was able to be realistic about my future could I then begin to work on the emotional and physical pieces I needed to properly manage OA at a young age. By no means have I mastered living with OA, but I’m now much better equipped to deal with the rough days and fully enjoy the days when things are feeling…not too bad!

Creating a sense of realistic hope hasn’t been easy for me. It’s taken a lot of patience, acceptance and time. But it has been worth it. Being real about how osteoarthritis currently affects my life and how it will impact the years ahead have allowed me to prepare for the worse while hoping for the best. It’s also been able to open more doors, allowing me to meet people dealing with similar issues and find new and exciting activities to learn, all while not allowing my OA to get the best of me!

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Originally published: August 21, 2017
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