Have you ever woken up one day with the feeling that you seem to have changed almost overnight, while the world around you continued to remain exactly the same?
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been feeling this way recently. It’s a weird sensation, definitely – but it need not necessarily be a scary one. The idea of re-establishing my connections with the environment around me, with my body, and with my rheumatoid arthritis might be quite unsettling were it not for the knowledge that in the process, I have been breaking bad models and replacing them with good models.
But any change, whether for better or for worse, does take time to get used to. And to be brutally honest, my heart is still catching up to my head.
You see, just six weeks ago I was still in major denial about the effect that rheumatoid arthritis was having on my person and on my body (and, my mind). Sure, I could see it and feel it, but this did not always translate to clear thoughts of understanding. I did not take the time to stop and evaluate what was going on. Once again (I have been through this cycle multiple times), the thought of acceptance seemed to be the equivalent of throwing in the towel.
Instead, I continued to tell myself that if I stayed strong I could work through it. By default, this meant that I was telling myself that any worsening of my rheumatoid arthritis was a sign of weakness on my behalf. Looking back, these were not very healthy thoughts to be having while dealing with a progressive and chronic illness, but that is where I was.
I continued to go to power yoga five mornings a week, all the time ignoring that my joints seemed more inflamed after each session. I thought that if I “gave in” to my rheumatoid arthritis and took a few days off, that my illness would get worse. As long as I continued to do the routine exactly as I’ve always done it, then everything was okay.
Little did I know that I was going the exact opposite of what I thought – by pushing my body too far, I was actually causing harm. And by not allowing myself to take the break that I needed to heal, I was denying my reality and the presence of rheumatoid arthritis in my body.
But all of that has changed in the past month.
During the past four weeks, I have prioritized taking care of my mind and body – above everything else. Each day is filled with appointments. One day I am going to physical therapy. The next day I am going to my psychologist. The day after that I am back at physical therapy. During the day I am putting on my ulnar-deviation gloves. (I am eventually supposed to get to the point where I can wear them overnight, but I haven’t been able to wear them for more than an hour yet!)
When I am not doing something physical, I am trying to find activities to help heal my mind and spirit. I blog. (This started as and continues to be, one of my best coping mechanisms. For me, it’s like putting my personal thoughts down in a private diary – with the exception, of course, that I am making it public for all of you to read.) I practice mindfulness. I listen to meditation tapes. I read. I relax.
Through this process, I have begun to lead a life that is a much more day-to-day. I have not been spending a lot of time dwelling on the past, nor have I been peeking much into the future. There always seems to be something in the present that I needs to focus on. With this, I have been content.
However, a couple of days ago I looked back at my past month, and felt a little overwhelmed when I realized how much things have changed. I then projected this past month onto my future, and felt slightly depressed as I asked myself: “Is this my new normal? Days full of medical care, exercise both physical and mental, and never knowing what my ‘point of recovery’ might be?”
I bought myself back to the present, and in doing so, I was able to affirm to myself: My “new life” is working for me. And in the end, isn’t this all that counts, no matter how long it lasts?
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!