Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy woke up this morning feeling much less pain and stiffness than usual. This makes two days in a row. (I think those of us who live with rheumatoid arthritis day in and day out would agree that this qualifies as a streak!)
These past two weeks have been quite memorable. When this latest flare started, I immediately labeled it as one of my worst ever. In a way, this was true. The pain was not only in more joints than usual, but it was more intense than usual. During multiple electrotherapy sessions, I reached the maximum level of current without my feet being able to register any sensations. This had happened before, but only for a day or two. This time, it lasted for two weeks.
Agony pretty much described the pain that I was experiencing in my shoulders. Previously, they have only “popped” for a few days. Right now, I am going on two weeks in which they continue to sound like I am playing with bubble wrap (the type with the extra-large bubbles, of course). Just this past weekend I had an episode where I could not move my right arm at all. Soon after I laid down to give it a rest, the same thing happened to both feet. Before I knew it, the only limb that I actually had control of was my left arm. Panic mode? Nah, not any more. Instead I told myself that it was a good thing that I am a lefty, and continued to ride out the episode.
I continue to learn that my acceptance of the impact that rheumatoid arthritis has on my life is a process which will probably never end. As I just wrote, I immediately labeled this flare as one of my worst ever. With this seemingly normal reaction to what I was experiencing, I think that I was actually rejecting, and not accepting, my situation. I started to tell myself that it was less important to compare this flare with other flares, and it was more important to focus on getting through each hour and each day. I have done this before, and I knew I could do it again. I reminded myself of this, and all of a sudden getting through this flare seemed achievable.
When I went to see my rheumatologist, I actually did not feel like taking another Prednisone burst – and I told him as much. I wasn’t trying to be the stoic…I just knew what my body was and was not ready for. And at that moment in time, I knew that it was not ready for another Prednisone burst. We agreed that we would instead use some Clofenac injections…three, to be exact. My last one was the day before yesterday.
During the first few days of this recent flare, I was reluctant to look into the mirror. My face looked like it had taken a few punches. There were dark bags under my eyes. Nobody needed to look beyond my face in order to know what was going in inside my body…I was indeed being beaten up, just from the inside out. So when my rheumatologist handed me a sample of two sleeping pills and told me to please take them, I dropped all of my previously held reservations regarding sleeping pills and decided to take them. I hadn’t even raised the topic…but obviously he too was able to read my face.
I split the pills in half, and took them over the course of four nights. I slept like a log each night…up until exactly 3:30am, that is. Not a full night of rest, but more than I had been getting before…and enough for me to recharge my batteries somewhat. I think these periods of true rest gave my body the energy to start coming out of the attack that is was under.
Is there some good that came from these past two weeks? Of course. For the first time ever, I experienced episode after episode of extreme pain and mobility loss, with absolutely no anxiety. Instead of getting scared when the first signs appeared, I instead thought of them sort of as blinking lights at the theater. There, this mean that I have a few minutes to get to my seat before the play starts. Here, this meant that I had a few minutes to prepare myself for what I knew was coming. Get myself a glass of water. Put on some pain cream. If I think I might need to lay down, fill my nightstand with books and music. Tell myself that even though I might need to take a break from movement, that I can still do a lot…and more importantly, I can keep my mind occupied. It’s going to get bad, I know, but experience has also shown me that after an hour or two things will get a little better.
For about ten days, I did this dance twice a day. It then tapered down to once a day. Yesterday I danced with my rheumatoid arthritis for a mere ten minutes. It’s still there, ever present, but now at least we are a little more coordinated in our movement. We are actually beginning to get along with one another, and this feels good.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!