Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy realizes that, once again, he is depressed.
I’ve been through this before many times, but I have never admitted it so publicly – either to myself or to others.
Before now, I always interpreted my depression as a sign of failure. One of my most frequent thoughts, once I reached this state, was that I should have done something earlier in order to prevent myself from reaching this low point.
I now know, though, that periods of depression are a normal part of living with rheumatoid arthritis. As much as I try to smile and make myself laugh, sometimes the tears take over – whether I like it or not. But I continue to laugh. Even a half-hearted laugh is better than no laugh at all.
My pain has once again reached new highs. My ankles and knees are weaker than ever. My hands are flaring out of control. Every step I take with my crutches is excruciating, and visions of a wheelchairs dance in my head. My thoughts become clouded, and my brain feels like one big marquee up in my head that is blinking “Don’t move!” I preemptively cringe the second before any type of movement.
My left elbow locked up when I am at physical therapy yesterday. My therapist stopped working on my hands and immediately moved to try to resolve this new problem. I can either laugh or cry. I end up with “I guess I won’t be playing tennis tomorrow.” The humor doesn’t cover up my pain, but it does help to lighten up the situation.
The sooner that I admit that I have gone into depression, the sooner I can go through this cycle and come out of depression. I know that my depression must heal on its own time. But at least I am on the right path.
At moments it feels like I am on the edge of a cliff, where the slightest wrong turn will send me down an even deeper spiral. Even though I know I have an amazing support network, the feelings of loneliness are overwhelming. I have no doubt that many helping hands will be offered – but deep down inside I know that I, and only I, can take the steps that are required to move forward.
I try to keep my mind occupied. I finish reading that book that I have been reading for a while. When listening to music on my iPod, I skip through any songs that make me feel any more wispy that I already am. During the evening I go out to watch the opening movie of a local film festival – luckily it’s a comedy (and a good one!) I laugh out loud, and for just a little over an hour my mind is in a happy place.
But I get back home, and the pain and depression is still there. Thoughts of “this is never going to end” creep back into my mind. I remove my ankle braces, my knee braces, my elbow braces, and my wrist braces. (One day I’m going to have a cape made, so that my RA Guy outfit is complete.)
I am scared. But way in the back of my mind, I know that I am okay. I put on my blinders to any depressing thoughts, but I still allow myself to see the actual depression. I am happy that I finally understand the difference between these two things.
My depression is not a weakness. It is not something bad. It is not something that I am ashamed of. It is not something I could have stopped. It is a natural response to the tremendous challenge that my body, mind, and spirit are going through at the moment.
Writing in my blog is one of the beacons that allows me to keep my balance. Putting my words down on paper helps, and throughout the day I often return often to re-read my own words. It helps me connect with myself, and to get through the pain.
My eyes burn, not because of crying. but because the amount of tears that my eye ducts produce has diminished drastically – another one of those weird symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. I add artificial tears throughout the day. Almost if by magic, they later turn into real tears.
I know that this too will pass. I won’t wallow in my depression but I will allow myself to feel what it needs. Even though my depression is sort of like an uninvited guest, I will still try to be the best possible host.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!
Update: Today, Jules at An Attitude of Gratitude also wrote a wonderfully eloquent post on the topic of depression.