Rheumatoid Arthritis can sometimes act like a river. At times the water level is average, and at other times the flow is just a trickle. It could also be that the riverbed is completely dry (this is probably one of the few time when a drought is a good thing!) Of course, we can’t overlook the opposite extreme – when the level continues to rise and the water is raging. In the worst of storms, dams – which have previously stood up to the greatest challenges – are suddenly swept away.
There are times when a river can run dry for years. At other times, the changes correspond to the seasons and the changing weather. Lastly, a range of extreme conditions can take place in a very short time span…sort of like a flash flood. (In this respect, the river metaphor continues to work nicely when trying to explain rheumatoid arthritis.)
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy used to be of the belief that he would continue to swim across the river, like he has always done in the past, no matter what the conditions. A fit guy in my mid thirties – what can possibly stop me?
And then I began to realize that even if I made it to the other side, once I put my bravado aside all I could feel was even more pain. I started to think: even though I can swim across the river, does that mean that I should swim across the river? Might I actually be causing myself more harm?
There were a few instances where I learned the error in my ways. The first time was when the current became much stronger than I had expected…it didn’t look so bad from the river’s edge – but once I got to the middle, things looked completely different. I struggled just to keep my head above water. All of my energy was being spent swimming against the current. I made it to the other side, just barely. In lots of ways, continuing to swim across a raging river did not make a whole lot of sense.
The second lesson I learned was when I could no longer keep up with the current, no matter how hard I tried. I knew that I should call out for help, but I felt ashamed to do so. Finally, when it became obvious to me that I would not make it, I sent out a signal and a lifesaver was thrown out to me. The wonderful support team that surrounds me pulled me back to shore. For that I am grateful.
I used to love to swim across the river, and I used to be able to do it no matter what. While this may not be the case anymore, if I put a positive spin on things I can still find creative ways to get to the other side.
At the moment, I am enjoying the concept of building a path of stepping stones in order to cross the river. Sometimes is seems like I am moving boulders, but that’s actually one of the enjoyable aspect of my current method. As long as I continue to put one stone in front of another, I will get closer to my goal of crossing the rapids. I am building a path, but I am focusing on each step. In a way, it’s to be expected that there will be some heavy lifting along the way, as a river is often deeper in the middle
Working in this way might be a little slower than the swims that I previously grew accustomed to, but if I am patient I can still see and hear the raging water that surrounds me, all the while feeling confident that I am indeed on a little piece of solid ground. I still am crossing the river on my own…that has not changed.
I do not know when I will reach the other side of this river that I am currently crossing. That will occur when the time is right. In the meantime, what I have done is to put out some five stepping stones for the coming week…one for each day.
The first four stepping stones represent Reiki sessions – one each evening for the next four days. I have always been interested in receiving this type of therapy, so I am excited to finally be doing so. Friday’s stepping stone represents a massage session that I will soon schedule. I have not yet decided on the exact type of massage I will request…but hot stones sounds more and more appealing (and appropriate!)
All of a sudden, the water level seems to be receding little by little. Crossing this river no longer seems scary. Instead, it seems perfectly doable. By the end of this week, I will be five stepping stones closer to the other side of the river.
Some stepping stones might be a little wet and slippery, I do not now. If I happen to slip along the way, I’ll just pick myself up – and continue moving forward.
In a weird sort of way, all of this is actually somewhat pleasant and relaxing. I don’t feel as rushed anymore to cross this river. Instead, I will enjoy each and every stepping stone along the way. I want to take my time while crossing this river.
I have no doubt that I will eventually cross this river, and many others after that.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!