Embracing My Rheumatoid Arthritis

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
-Kenji Miyazawa

embraceOver the past month, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has realized that his rheumatoid arthritis has not seemed to be as disruptive as it once used to be. I’m not saying that my rheumatoid arthritis has not been active – it has been active, maybe it has not reached some of its strongest levels, but it has still been active. For years is seemed to be a matter of my life versus my rheumatoid arthritis, acting in opposition to one another. I think I am at a point in my journey with rheumatoid arthritis where I am learning that they can actually go hand-in-hand, and work together.

One of my biggest fears in the past year was committing myself to a fixed schedule. How could I possibly plan to do something on a certain date at a certain time, when I don’t know how I will be feeling at that moment in time. And then I began to realize, even though I was still allowing myself the flexibility that I needed in order to manage my pain and inflammation, I was following a schedule much more than I had realized. There were my weekly therapy sessions. There were my 2x or 3x a week physical therapy sessions. I then introduced evening classes three times a week. Just this past month I started tutoring a new student 3 times a week, on top of another student who I tutor twice a week. Am I always feeling 100% (okay, 90%) during all of these commitments? No. Does this mean that I am unable to meet my commitments? No. It only means that I must rest even more during my down time.

I entered December with a lot of if’s on my mind. Will I be able to go to the airport early in the morning to welcome my family member, if my RA is flaring? Will I be able to accompany them to the lake and to the island, with its strenuous uphill hike, if my RA is flaring? Will I be able to show them around the crowded and steep streets of town, if my RA is flaring? Will I be able to cook Christmas dinner, if my RA is flaring? Will I be able to go out for an evening of drink and folkloric music, if my RA is flaring?

I was able to do everything that I had hoped to…and unlike in the past, I did not do it by pushing myself too far. I did it by embracing the presence of rheumatoid arthritis in my life, and by learning how to moderate my activities not only when my RA is at its worst, but also when my RA is at its best.

Sure, I needed help peeling the potatoes and lifting heavy pots and pans onto the stove and into the oven on Christmas eve, but in the end the meal came out just with the flavorful touches that I had hoped for. By asking for help, I not only prevented myself from overworking my hands, but I also created a social environment in the kitchen…which made it a place of fun, instead of a place of overwhelming work.

My ankles continue to get quite stiff on most mornings, requiring at least a half hour of warm-up rotations before I can get out of bed. My hands and wrists continue to have their good times and their bad times. My rheumatoid arthritis is still active, but it’s nice to know that I am allowing it to become a part of my life, and not an obstacle to living my full life.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!