Minimizing The Struggle: What Exactly Am I Fighting Against?

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!

7 Comments
7 comments
  1. Sara says:

    This topic is such a great one to raise, and reminds me of a lot of the conversations that we used to have in my meditation class, back when I was studying buddhism. You are completely right when you say that ‘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.’ One of my yoga teachers repeated a Zen parable once that drove this home to me: I am happy; the birds fly over. I am sad; the birds fly over. Knowing what can impact and focusing our efforts there really is half the battle, and sounds like you are on your way to winning it!

  2. Tessie says:

    Yes. Yes yes and YES! My mantra is “Surrender to Win” because I continue to wrestle with RA physically AND with all the implications it has for my life emotionally.

    I get glimmers of winning…like, I love to garden. My body, on the other hand, likes to NOT garden. Now, though, instead of bowing to the wishes of the RA god, I garden “on credit”…you know, play now, pay later.

    I am like you in that I’ve had very little non-flare time since diagnosis. I’m of a mind now that I can rest and sit and feel like poo…or I can go ahead and do things I love and feel like poo. So I guess feeling poo-y is my base line. If by chance I feel better than poo, well…BONUS!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Loving the blog! Keep up the great work. I must admit I am struggling over my reactions to my RA – so today my day is starting at 12pm. What a relief. Thanks.

  4. Cathy says:

    The quote is exactly what I have been thinking lately. Although difficult we have to keep going. Each day I say, “This is now and now is only temporary.” Also, I have a wise 10 year old daughter that reminds me on my bad days that I have had good days and they will return. I hope the same for you.

  5. Artlover says:

    Hi!

    This blog is great! 12pm is the new 8am-is it ever! I was just saying this to my husband this week. Before RA I was a morning person (up at 5am)…now, not so much…

  6. Angela says:

    Hi, Since I’m new to the site I thought I would start at it’s/the beginning (even though I’ve read some of your latest posts).

    I don’t have RA but I sure do have many of the same symptoms from a chronic pain illness. (I have so many DXs there’s no telling what I really do or don’t have but I know chronic pain is a given. )

    I love that “noon is the new 8am”. It sure has been most days for me. I rarely schedule an appointment before noon anymore. Took me forever to figure out that it’s best for me to do it that way.

    It would be so fun to use this quote (among others I’ve read on here) as my “status” on my Facebook page. I would be sure to add your name at the end of each quote that I decided to use on any given day. Is that all OK with you? I want to raise awareness and have ways to talk about chronic illness without people getting bummed out. Your funny quotes would be great for that. Please let me know if I have your permission.

    Thanks for the smiles.

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