36 Hours

36 hoursThis was the amount of time over the past two days during which I was absolutely pain free. No, not just “the pain is not registering” pain free. I’m speaking about a complete absence of pain. 100%. Even my physical therapist was surprised when I showed up for my appointment yesterday, exhibiting absolutely no signs of inflammation.

Since last night, however, my rheumatoid arthritis seems to be making up for its lost time! The pain and swelling is back, as is the crying/whimpering in my sleep.

During that day and a half in which there was no pain, I did not even attempt to disillusion myself with thoughts that my RA was gone (as I have often done in the past.) I found that doing so makes the eventual return of the symptoms that more difficult to deal with.

What did I do during this time? I walked up a long flight of outdoor steps. Slowly. Fully aware of the absence of pain each time my foot touched the ground again. It was a lovely experience.

I woke up, bathed, and got dressed. And then I realized that I did not have a drop of my usual early morning pain and stiffness.

In the bigger picture, 36 hours may seem like a very brief time. This past week, this was an eternity for me. Yes, I knew the pain would more than likely soon be back, but during that window I enjoyed every minute and every second, without fooling myself into thinking that it was a new normal.

I am allowing myself to entertain the possibility, though, of having more of these brief episodes in the future. I think I’ll call them “anti-flares”. I like the idea.

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

Fighting Depression

CloudOver the past year, there were many moments when I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to hear any type of advice. Words of encouragement were often transformed midair into little daggers that somehow made me feel worse instead of better. On top of struggling with a major progression of my rheumatoid arthritis, I was also having a difficult time accepting the full extent of my depression.

And as is often the case with depression, my mind was constantly tricking itself into believing that I was more comfortable staying where I was, than trying to dig myself out of the emotional hole that I was in. “Too difficult”, “not possible” and “I can’t” were phrases that all too often floated around in my head.

So when helping hands were offered, I often found it much easier to snap at them.

“I don’t need help. I can help myself.”

So true, yet so false at the same time.

I could help myself…but I would need help in doing so.

I started seeking the help that I needed.

But even when my therapist would encourage me to work through my feelings and try to move to a better place, even when my therapist would offer suggestions that sounded oh so exciting, I still felt slightly…offended.

How could anyone possibly know the pain that I am experiencing? How could anyone possibly understand what I am going through?

How dare anyone even try to suggest what I should do in order to make things better?

(For a while there, I actually lost sight of the fact that it was I who was searching for answers. It was I who was asking for help.)

And even though I may not have known it at the time, friends and family members were doing their best to help. My therapist and doctor were doing their best to help. I forced myself to see past my anger and depression, and try to realize what was actually going on, even though I did not fully understand it.

So when helping hands were offered, I reached out, and grabbed on tightly.

All the pulling in the world would not have been successful. I had to pitch in as well and do some climbing of my own. Ultimately, I overcame my depression. While living with rheumatoid arthritis is a challenge, living with rheumatoid arthritis and depression is an even bigger challenge. This is just one of the many important lessons that I continue to learn on my journey with rheumatoid arthritis.

I can only hope that should I fall again, that I will once again receive helping hands, suggestions, and words of advice…no matter how annoying they might seem at the time.

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

Throwing In The Towel (Not!)

Manduka MatSakEarlier today, on my way home from physical therapy, I stopped by the gym. No, I did not go there in order to work out or exercise. Instead, I collected my yoga mat and turned in my locker key.

A few months ago I went through the same routine, feeling all the while defeated by my inability to go to the gym. This time around, I’m approaching things from a different perspective.

For the past few years, yoga has been an important part of my life. After having my knee muscles atrophy (and subsequently losing the use of my knees) during one of my pre-diagnosis flares, and after months of daily recuperative physical therapy, I was determined that I would not let that happen again…so I signed up for yoga classes.

Within a year I shed almost 50 pounds, was much more flexible, and was feeling great. Within two years, I was performing handstands and forearm stands of all types, was hooking my foot into my elbow behind my head while in pigeon pose, and was coming close to perfecting an unsupported (no arms!) headstand. On some days, I would do power yoga in the morning and power pilates in the evening. I was feeling fit, and I was loving it.

And then, a year and a half ago, my rheumatoid arthritis took a turn for the worse. I started missing classes, and even when I did attend I had to incorporate many modifications into the routine in order to get through class. I started wearing flexible ankle, knee, and wrist braces during class in order to give me a little extra support. I started using my forearms instead of my wrists, and started placing more weight on my knees and less weight on my ankles.

And at the end of class, I would feel great (emotionally). However, I would not always accept the fact that I was actually feeling worse (physically).

A couple of weeks ago, after months of struggling, I finally made some difficult but necessary decisions related to my exercise practice. I accepted the fact that my ankles and wrists, even in their best days, are no long strong enough to endure the strenuous weight-bearing positions that are required in my power yoga and pilates classes. Sure, I could continue to attend class and make my own modifications, but at a certain point (that would be now!) my personal routine would not even resemble that of the other members of the class.

So, instead of throwing in the towel, I have instead moved to a private yoga practice – here in the comfort of my own house. Before I start my routine, I lay flat and listen to my body. I take note of which areas hurt more and which areas hurt less (and which areas don’t hurt at all!). I then compare this against the wide range of postures that are available, and perform my yoga routine accordingly. In my core (abs, torso) I can still perform power exercises without problem. In my arms and legs, I can perform only soft, gentle (non weight-bearing) exercises.

What I’ve ended up with is a hybrid power-restorative exercise routine that fits me to a T. I enter into a boat pose, and while I hold it for ten seconds I perform a few open/closed hand grasps. My hand-strengthening exercises, which I have been particularly reluctant to perform as prescribed (my rheumatologist checks up on me during every visit!), have taken on a whole new meaning since I’ve incorporated them into my yoga practice.

Last week, I received a call from the gym asking me how I was doing (they know that I have rheumatoid arthritis, and we’ve come to an agreement that missed days won’t be counted against my prepaid membership). I told them that I was no longer going to be participating in the classes that I took part in for so many years, but that I would still be stopping by to take advantage of the sauna, exercise bicycles, and light weights. Pilates reformer machines are currently being installed (to be launched next month!), so I might give them a try to see if they help me exercise without having to place a lot of weight on my ankles and wrists.

So while my yoga mat is now here in my house instead of in a locker at the gym, this is not necessarily a bad thing. In the past this used to be a sign that I was not exercising. Now, it’s just a sign that I am now doing a different form of exercise. A form of exercise that is less about “pushing” myself, and more about “helping” myself.

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

One More RA Blog

The Thousand Teeth

I am a thirty-something wife, stay-at-home mom, school volunteer, community group leader, writer, scrapbooker, jewelry designer. Oh yeah, and I have this chronic, painful disease called rheumatoid arthritis that tries to take all that away from me. This journal is all about me trying to keep it all together while still living a normal life. (Plus bonus literary quotes! What’s a former English major going to do without her quotes?)

Read More: http://thethousandteeth.wordpress.com/

More RA Blogs

Southern Girl with RA
I am a single, proud mom in my 30’s. I was diagnosed with seronegative RA over a year ago. I have been taking methotrexate and Arava without benefit. I am about to embark on a journey of taking antibiotics for my RA. I am excited about the possibility of remission and I want to blog about it as I go.

Read More: http://southerngalra.blogspot.com/

RA (maybe) Mamma
Exploring Rheumatoid Arthritis & Pregnancy
I’m a 29 year old nearly-newlywed – and I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was diagnosed just over a year ago, only a few short months after my wedding. It’s been a bumpy road over the last year, but I am finally at a point where my health is in fairly good shape and I am essentially in remission (meaning I have limited swelling, pain and fatigue). But, that remission comes at a cost. That being some serious medications.

Read More: http://ramamma.blogspot.com/

Hat tip to RA Superb*tch for sharing the link to RA (maybe) Mamma.