Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. -Lance Armstrong
As some of you may already know, my rheumatoid arthritis has been flaring out of control since December. My health situation was recently complicated by the arrival of winter, which is always a difficult time for my body as it adjusts to the cold weather. Along with the physical struggle comes its wonder-twin: emotional struggle.
Over the past week things continued to get worse day by day. But yesterday I thought: Just what exactly am I struggling against? Is living with chronic pain and debilitating inflammation difficult? Of course it is. Is this something that I have not previously experienced? No.
I have been though this many times and chances are I will go through this many more times in the future. In fact, everything that is happening is quite familiar. The combination of affected joints and the severity level may be different from previous episodes but a whole lot of what is going on remains the same.
So I sat down and began to think about what exactly it was that I was struggling against the most. I realized that I was struggling against the presence of the rheumatoid arthritis in my life. I was also struggling against the impact this was having on my daily life, even though by now I know what changes and modification I need to make in order to lighten the impact this illness has on my body and my life.
I may not be able to control the effect that rheumatoid arthritis has on my body, but I am able to control my thoughts and reactions when the illness presents itself.
So now instead of feeling defeated that I am currently not able to go to the gym and do an hour of intense pilates, I feel perfectly happy that I was able to pull out an exercise mat at home and do fifteen minutes of light stretching exercises. (There, wasn’t that easy? Not at first, but now it is.)
I recently tweeted “12 noon is the new 8am – life with RA.” This was meant to be both serious and light-hearted. It is true that on many days I do not get a strong start on my day until midday. (We know the routine – morning stiffness, pain, difficulties in bathing and dressing, etc.) But if on those days I need to realize that my start of the day is 12 noon versus the 8am of most people, then that is what I will do – and I will do it with pride. Does it mean I must write off my day completely? No. It just means that I am pushing my starting time back a little.
Getting into some nicely pressed clothes instead of putting on the usual warmups make me feel good. Taking my laptop to work in my sunny dining room instead of staying in my cold home office makes me feel good. Putting arthritis lotion on my hands throughout the day makes me feel good. Rubbing my joints constantly in order to add some warmth and improve their circulation makes me feel good. These are just some examples of the smaller changes I have made in order to minimize the struggle.
Whether or not I like the pain or inflammation, it is here to stay until this current flare comes under control (and, it could possibly last beyond this flare – I do not know.) I can either continue to stuggle against something that I have no control over, or I can start to figure out what changes and modifications I need to make in order to help me better cope with my rheumatoid arthritis. From now on moving foward, I pledge to do the latter.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!