Today’s post is dedicated to everyone who has supported me on my journey through life with rheumatoid arthritis.
Near and far, you know who you are.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is convinced that we live in an Orwellian world of Big Brother. No, I am not talking about the fact that we are surrounded by surveillance cameras, both visible and hidden. Neither am I talking about the fact that every non-cash transaction that we conduct will probably be stored in some hard drive for who knows how long. Medical records. Phone calls. Emails. Text messages. No, I am not talking about any of these things.
What am I talking about, then? Well, I am convinced that anytime I make a statement claiming that some joint or some part of the body is doing better, that somewhere an alarm sounds – and the person behind the rheumatoid arthritis curtain immediately turns up the dial from “mild discomfort” to “extreme overload”.
I’m kidding, of course (if only because even any explanation – like the one presented in the previous paragraph – would be just too easy!) Only yesterday did I write the following in my post: “my wrists are doing much better than they were just a few weeks ago”.
What happened just an hour after publishing these words to my blog? Would anyone like to take a guess? (As if we really have to guess.) My hands flared up like almost never before.
Later in the afternoon, as my joints were being examined by my physical therapist, she asked me if I was sure about my request that the entire session focus on my hands. While my wrists, knuckles and fingers were visibly inflamed and sightly bent out of share, so too were my knees and my elbows. (One of the few good things about having extreme pain in one area is that if it is really bad, it can actually wash out lesser – but still substantial – pain in other parts.)
Right before we started I turned my hands palm-side up, as I want to point out the specific areas that were experiencing the most pain. Both the therapist and I were shocked to see what looked like thick purple marker lines all over my palms. Well, I learned a new word yesterday: vasculitis. This is when blood vessels in the hands become inflamed and burst open, causing dark purple spots to form under the skin. (Bruises, basically.)
Needless to say, 90% of the session was spent on my hands. (The remaining 10% was divided between my knees and elbows.)
As I watched television during the evening, and as my hands felt like they were roasting on an open fire (chestnuts, anyone?), I realized that once again I was focusing on a certain thought that frequently seems to take center stage whenever I am in the midst of a major flare.
In this world of constant surveillance and electronic gadgets that we live in, it is sometimes easier to see everything except that which lies right before our own eyes. Along these lines, I feel very hurt that some of my family members continue to deny, rather than accept, the reality of my life with rheumatoid arthritis. To them, my illness truly is invisible. They cannot see it.
This past week I read a lot of comments and received private messages from people thanking my for my 60-Second Guide to RA. Many told me how this guide helped them talk to their friends and family about their life with chronic illness and disability. Up until now, I had only privately observed, with irony, the fact that some of my own family members know next to nothing about my life with RA – despite my repeated attempts to the contrary.
I was a little hesitant to write these words, as they are very personal in nature – but many times during the past few years I have heard similar sentiments expressed by others living with chronic illness and disability. For this reason, I decided to go ahead and write about this topic.
And in doing so, I have come closer to seeing and accepting some of the truths in my life, that lie right before my own eyes.
Yes, it is the truth that my disability goes unrecognized by some people who I consider to be close in my life.
Yes, it is the truth that this often causes me a lot of personal pain.
But what I guess to be the final truth on the matter is that ultimately, I need to accept this for what it is – something beyond my control – and move on, once and for all.
Because in the end, every second spent fretting about the actions/non-actions of other individuals – from close friends and family to strangers on the street – is one second that is better spent taking care of myself – body, mind, and soul.
This is easier said than done, I know. But sometimes, the most important thing is to take that first step.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!