Are You Petrified?

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

TabooLast year Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy – for the first time – listened to the Broadway cast recording of Taboo, the musical. This show originally premiered in London’s West End, and is based upon the story of singer Boy George. Taboo was later brought to New York City’s Broadway by comedian/talk show host Rosie O’Donnell.

Having grown up with the music of Culture Club and Boy George while I was in junior high, I immediately enjoyed this soundtrack. I still remember the time when I first heard Taboo – I was actually in bed listening to music, dealing with the symptoms of a flare that had clearly gone beyond the three weeks that my flares had typically lasted at the time.

As I moved through the final tracks on the album, one song stuck out and has stayed close to me ever since. That song was “Petrified,” sung by Raul Esparza. This song is hauntingly beautiful, and contains lyrics such as “When you’re alone, at night, do you run and hide?/Are you strong, inside, are you full of pride?/Or just petrified”.

And at that moment, I realized how overwhelmingly afraid I was of my rheumatoid arthritis. I was petrified. I listened to this song at least twenty times before falling asleep. I woke up the next morning with a new awareness, with a new understanding of the role that fear played in my life of chronic illness and all of its unknowns.

In the past few months, I have often gone back and listened to this song – whenever my level of fear grew. My goal was not to depress myself; instead it was to both confront and accept my fright. As I heard the song I would play with the lyrics in my mind, and come up with my own personal affirmation.

Yes, I am petrified. Yes, I am strong inside. No, I will not run and hide.

Last night, I found myself once again listening to “Petrified”, and repeating this mantra in my head.

You see, yesterday afternoon I experienced a sudden increase in pain in my hands and feet. Although I lived with this pain on a daily basis for almost half a year – up until three weeks ago – I have been fortunate enough to not experience any pain, since earlier this month.

For whatever reason, my pain was back – and I was petrified. So much so, that I could literally feel my world closing in on me. I sensed I was just minutes away from a major panic attack. All of the coping mechanisms that I have used to deal with these anxiety attacks in the past escaped me. Luckily, I remembered that I could call my psychologist, and that I exactly what I did.

Ten minutes later I was much more calm. I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon at my previously scheduled session of physical therapy (we’ve been working on strengthening treatments during the last few weeks in with all inflammation has been absent). I took a nap when I got home. I took an extra anti-inflammatory pill in the evening. As my day progressed, I did get much better – both emotionally and physically.

I have no idea if my pain will return today, or if it will get better or worse. I am a little nervous, but at least I recognize that I am scared. I guess this is somewhat normal. I  must admit though, that I am (once again) surprised at how strong this fear can grow and how quickly it can appear.

So, I will once again confront my fears. I will continue to remind myself that no matter what might happen, I will have the strength to get through it. I have done it before, and I can do it again. I will stay as positive as I possibly can.

But deep down inside, there still is a little bit of fear…and I hope it soon goes away.


Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!