During the past month, there was a certain thought that was frequently floating around in Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy’s head: “I hope my RA doesn’t come back, because if it does I don’t think there is anything more that I can possibly do to help, on top of what I am already doing.”
During these past few days, I am proud to say that I have proven myself wrong.
Up until a few months ago, my reaction to any recurrence of pain of stiffness was the same – try to deny its presence as long as I can. As long as the symptoms continue to remain internal and I can hide their effect from those around me, everything is going to be okay.
(If I were a Family Feud contestant trying to name one of the top five answers to the questions “What’s the best way to respond to RA pain and inflammation?” I would now have a big red “X” being shown over my face. Actually the producers of the show would probably decide that this answer was so bad that it deserved three strikes!)
I’ve since realized that denying what is going on inside my body and mind only makes things worse, and that I would probably be better if I pushed up my acceptance letter a little…sort of like early admission for college.
Well, in the past few weeks I have tried to implement this new piece of self-advice, when – BAM – I felt like I was being smacked in the face by fear. (And for those of you who read my post a couple of weeks back when I had a bad day, you know that this fear was indeed as real as it could be.)
That’s my prize for doing the right thing? I can’t be…it feels like I’m being punished when I should be rewarded. Something is obviously wrong here. Things were much easier when I tried to deny them instead of confront them head on.
So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks drilling into myself that was important was not the absence or presence of fear, but how I reacted when any such fear entered my life.
And it served me well, I think.
Let me give you the play-by-play commentary of the past few days, in my best John Madden voice. (Football anyone?)
1st Down/Friday: During the evening, I noticed that my right elbow was hurting quite a bit. I pulled up my shirtsleeve in front of the mirror, and saw a big bright red circle (not even Sharpee marker red is as red as this was…) Bummer! (Okay, that’s not exactly the word that came out of my mouth.) Well, what can I do? I put on my proprietary blend of Peaceful Mountain Joint Rescue Gel and Aspercreme. An hour later, things seem to be a little improved.
2nd Down/Saturday: I wake up in the morning, with some pain in my hands, elbows, and one ankle. Double Bummer! (One again, not exactly – you should know the routine by now…) Maybe if I get some bed rest in the morning things well get better. (Wishful thinking.) Around midday I roll out of bed and stumble into the bathtub. In the back of my head I hear the voice of my physical therapist: “Call me anytime during the weekend if you’re not feeling well, and I will meet you in the clinic.” Before I was even fully dressed, I had fifteen minutes to arrive at my impromptu physical therapy session. (Can you believe it???) Two hours later I come back home, and while my pain and inflammation were still present, they were considerably lowered.
3rd Down/Sunday: Things are looking good. Maybe all of that was just a false blip on the radar. I am so glad that I requested that extra physical therapy session on Saturday and didn’t try to tough it out through the weekend, as I would have done in the past. (And way in the past, I would have tried to tough it our for much more than just a weekend.)
4th Down/Monday: The first thing I noticed when I wake up is that my ankles are stiff. Triple Bummer! (See above.) While I’ve had some pain and inflammation during the past couple of months, it’s been much longer than that since I’ve experienced any symptoms of morning stiffness. This is not good news. I just want to lay in bed and not face the day….fast forward two hours, and I am just wrapping up a serious session of pilates. I certainly didn’t do anything that pushed my self too far, but I did manage to work past the limitations of the morning stiffness in my ankles. And in the afternoon I had my regularly scheduled session of physical therapy.
Score! (Okay, maybe it wasn’t a touchdown, but at least it was a field goal – the important thing, after all, is to get points on the board.)
So I guess my new modus operandi when pain and inflammation appears is to respond as quickly as possible. The fear is still there, I would be lying if I said that it played more role whatsoever. But I’ve tried to relegate it down to a supporting actor role…and maybe in the future it can become just an extra on the set.
There are a lot of things about living with rheumatoid arthritis that are outside of my control, but I am determined that my acceptance of and reaction to any reappearance of pain and inflammation will remain within my control. I’ve worked to hard to get where I am, and I’m not going to lose it all to fear.
So rheumatoid arthritis, beware – RA Guy has just added “rapid response” to his list of superpowers!
(Moral of the story: there is always something more that we can add to our list of superpowers.)
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!