Some Say Freefall, I Say Soar

freefall_2Sometimes, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy would swear that a little troll lives under his bed. This troll, having nothing better to do, jumps out a couple of hours before I wake up and whacks me with a sledgehammer. This morning, he decided to get my feet.

There have been many times when rheumatoid arthritis has greatly affecting my hands, to the point where things that would otherwise be simple – such a lifting a pen or a glass of water – become difficult. It is during these moments when I begin to realize how much I actually use my hands to do things throughout a typical day.

During some of these episodes, I have sometimes told myself that if I had a choice between having RA attack my hands or my feet, that I would choose my feet. My line of reasoning goes like this: even if I have difficulty moving my body around, at least when I am in a stationary position I will still have full use of my hands and upper body.

Mornings like today remind me about the inherent silliness that is present in my above answer. Of course RA affects each joint differently, and the mobility loss in different joints presents different challenges to my life. I can still walk around at the moment, but only with extreme pain. It feels like the bones in my feet, from the ankle down, are broken.

As I was falling asleep last night, I started having flashbacks from around eight years ago. I was still in my twenties and just a couple of years out of graduate school when I started having pain in my feet. The pain got so bad some days that I could not even walk around. These episodes were taking place during the evenings, which lead me to believe that the pain was a result of having walked too much during the day, or that I needed a pair of more comfortable shoes. I even went to my general doctor because of this pain. X-rays were inconclusive and I was told to take aspirin.

Soon after, the pain in my feet begin to go away – but my knees started to hurt. Still in my twenties, I thought this was just part of the normal aging process. On some days me knees hurt more than others. The pain was not as pronounced as it had been on my feet, but it was still definitely noticeable. A little more than a year later, I went to my general doctor to complain about pain in my knees. This was the first time that I used the word “arthritis”, as in “Could I have arthritis?”

I was told (I kid you not): “If you have arthritis, there is nothing we can do for you.” Take some aspirin or ibuprofen for the pain.

(It’s a good thing that Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy was not around at that point in time…he would have probably unleashed a serious can of whoopass.)

In a way I digress, the foot pain that I am experiencing at the moment is much worse than what I experienced many years ago…but still, it is pretty profound to realize that I have been experiencing symptoms in my feet for almost a decade. Having received my official diagnosis three years ago, I normally consider my superhero experience to be around five years – this was the time when I first lost the use of my knees for a few months. If I look at things a little more closely, I have been living with rheumatoid arthritis for almost ten years…wow.

This past Friday evening I was walking to class in extreme pain. In the past I would not have even considered leaving the house, much less go to a class where I had to pay attention and take notes. I would have instead wrapped myself in blankets and stay in bed. But still, I went to class. When I decided to take this class earlier this month, I told myself that I would do everything within my control to try to not miss class – even if I was in pain. I sat on a bench outside the classroom a few minutes before the hour, and secretly cried inside. I was kicking myself for having dragged myself outside of the house. Shouldn’t I be in bed right now? It was too late for that. Off to class I went…and just ten minutes later my mind was elsewhere and I had (almost) forgotten about all of the pain.

On  Saturday evening I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. (This is something I normally used to do every Friday, but since starting my M/W/F evening class I have since switched it to Saturday.) I feel proud of the fact that I am in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes – but I am in just so much pain! No, it is not a pain that is being made worse by what I am doing at the moment…it’s just the oh-so-pervasive pain of rheumatoid arthritis that seems to drill into every joint. Shouldn’t I be in bed right now? No, I tell myself – I am just fine with what I am doing at the moment. At a certain point, it becomes to much to hold in, and my emotions come spilling out in the form of tears.

I’ve recently begun to have feelings of being in a freefall. Where this ride stops I do not know. I can’t say that I enjoy these feeling. I can say that I am just a tad bit more used to them, then I used to be. I do know that wherever this ride lets me off, I will pick up the pieces and continue to move forward once again.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy life as much as I can. Instead of a freefall, I will imagine that I have a big blue cape (with the letters “RA” on it) that is spread open and allowing me to soar across the sky. So many things are out of my control at the moment. What I can do is look out across the horizon and see the beauty that exists. I think I will continue to do this, as scary as it can be at times.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy

5 Comments
5 comments
  1. Mallen says:

    This is the same attitude that I try to have as well. I, too, would easily never leave my house. But usually once I’m out I enjoy myself and am glad I came.

    I was quite young when I started to have pain. I just rationalized it as normal when it really wasn’t. It’s funny how we do this to ourselves, especially when doctors don’t take us seriously. Really looking back, I’ve been fighting this RA way longer than the five years I’ve been diagnoised.

    Sorry about your feet. :(

  2. Kelly says:

    Hi RA guy!

    I was wondering if you have ever explored meditation? I went to a holistic practice in Philadelphia and my doctor recommended their course which was pretty intense. I have to say that meditation has been a great help is pushing the pain to a place where I can just be. It doesn’t take the pain away…..but does help me feel more centered and relaxed which does help me cope with the pain. I refused a long time ago to let this pain keep me in bed and meditation is one of the keys that helps me get up and out.

    I’m sorry your having such bad pain. My weekend was pretty pain filled, too.

  3. Amanda says:

    Time also seems to fly when you’re NOT having fun, right? Just out of curiosity, how do you balance classes with RA? I’m considering taking some and that has been part of my hesitation. Feel better!!!!!

  4. Lana says:

    That troll’s brother lives under my bed. Arthritis is a naive condition. Like Fibromyaliga, there are many in the medical professional that actually wonder whether RA exists. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, an estimated 46 million adults in the United States reported being told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. Additionally, an estimated 1.3 million adults were affected by rheumatoid arthritis in 2005. Also, an estimated 5.0 million adults had fibromyalgia in 2005.

    Seriously,a can of whoopass is appropirate when it comes to such ignorance. Ten years – it took for me to be diagnosed. I was only 22 when I started having symptoms that no one could explain, and I remember those days of either being told to take some Advil, rest, or hey, maybe you need some anti-anixety meds. (Paxil only makes you sicker.) And this by the medical profession. What about the number of people who keep telling you that I should do this or that to “cure” your condition?

    Sometimes, the ignorance angers me, but other times, I am grateful for everything I have been given. Life’s a test, and our time here on earth is short-lived. All we can do is be patient, and allow our faith to guide us.

    And I love the cape analogy. It is a good one to visualize on those bad days.

  5. RA Guy says:

    Mallen, I think I’ve made great strides in dealing with bad pain and really bad pain. When it gets to really really bad pain, as at the moment, it still gets the best of me at times. If there’s anything good, it makes regular pain seem like a walk in the park. :)

    Kelly, yes I meditate regularly to varying degrees, and it helps me greatly. Sometimes, just taking a few deep breathes and telling myself that everything is going to be okay gives me an extra little boost to keep moving forward.

    Amanda, I started with just one class 3x a week. I knew that some days would be more difficult than others, but I have on regrets in taking the class. Once I’m into the lecture/lesson, my mind is distracted from the pain.

    Lana, you’ve got a troll too?? hehe. Yes, I too have a little bit of anger still about how long it took for me to receive a diagnosis, but all I can hope is that all of us who are writing and blogging about our stories can help other individuals get a more speedy DX.

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