Sometimes it feels as if flares are the most difficult tests of all. While I often go into a flare thinking that I know all of the answers, sometimes this just doesn’t seem to matter. In those moments when the pain is at its worst and when I am feeling completely overwhelmed, I sometimes draw a mental blank – and have next to no idea what I need to do in order to keep moving forward.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy found himself in the above situation just a few weeks ago. This time around my experience was very different than previous ones, though.
Just when I was reaching my lowest point, when I was grasping for something – anything – that I could grab onto in order to orient myself and when my anxiety felt like the weight of the world bearing down on me, I sat down and started writing.
I wasn’t writing in any coherent manner. I was not writing a journal entry, or a blog post that I could publish the following day. Instead, I told myself that I needed to sit down a create a cheat sheet that would get me through the rest of the day (and hopefully, through the rest of the flare).
I ended up referring back to my cheat sheet quite often during the week following my low point. It did indeed help me to focus, and it helped me to maintain my determination to get through my flare. My cheat sheet helped me pass this test with flying colors.
The following are just some of the notes that I jotted down onto my cheat sheet that day:
I am being proactive. I am not letting this get the best of me, even though it is trying to.
I have a strong support group around me. I am reaching out to that support group.
Even though my anxiety is rising, I am reacting sooner and preventing a full-blown anxiety attack. Focusing on my breathing helps.
I am much more than just my pain.
I have gotten through similar episodes in the past. I will get though this episode. I will get through similar episodes in the future.
Everything is going to be okay.
I just had lunch. I sat at the dining table. I used my special fork and knife. It is okay to use both of my hands to pick up my glass of water.
Even though I have been going through a good stretch during the past two weeks, I am already preparing myself for the next flare. My aim, as always, is not to be pessimistic. Instead my goal is to be realistic…and ideally, be just a little more prepared my next flare.
I revisited my cheat sheet yesterday, and thought that I should turn it into something nicer – something that I could print out and place in a convenient location, so that I could easily pull it out and refer to it, next time I need to.
Then, I thought, it would be nice if I published this cheat sheet here on my blog, so that others too could use it during their flares.
I will soon start updating my cheat sheet..but before I do so, I want to ask you, my readers, to please submit (via blog comment or email) any suggestions that you might have – statements, actions, prayers, or affirmations that work particularly well during your worst RA moments. They need not be just from the individual who are directly living with RA and similar autoimmune diseases. Family members, friends, and caregivers are right by our side as we cope with the ups and downs, and they too struggle with our flares. It would be great to include some suggestions from them as well.
This way, we can end up a cheat sheet that works for all of us – and through the process, maybe each one of us can discover some new secrets for coping with a flare.
I look forward to publishing this cheat sheet soon!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!