To Medicate Or Not To Medicate, That Is The Question

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Rarely am I ever reluctant to discuss any topic related to rheumatoid arthritis here on my blog, but today’s post is the exception. It’s not that I am ashamed of what I am going to write about, it’s just that even though the words that I write here are often very personal in nature, I feel that decisions that I make on how/how not to medicate my illness are some of the most private issues in my life.

I have never hidden the fact that I believe in a complete, holistic approach to treating my rheumatoid arthritis, and that I have never limited myself to just taking pills. (See 00:00:10 remaining in my 60-Second Guide To RA.) That said, I believe that many of the medicines that I take to control my disease are both very helpful and very harmful to my body.

In only the past couple of years, I have shared stories of hair loss (I’m currently going into my third round), elevated liver enzymes (scary!), stomach problems (the superhero with “abs of tissue paper” was how I stated it so eloquently, I believe), and so on. I haven’t even talked much about my methrotrextate-year-from-hell (somehow my doctor at the time convinced me that having the worst headache for 48 hours after each dose and 24/7 diarrhea was a “normal” response to the medication), which took place before I even started this blog.

Even with all of these horrible side effects, though, I readily admit that many times these medicines have been the only things that have kept me moving. Shot upon shot upon shot, and pill after pill after pill, for months on end. There were periods where without these medicines, I would have been completely immobile from my jaw all the way down to my pinky toe.

But every now and then, my body reaches a point where I just know that the solution (temporarily, at least, as is often the case with talking about RA) is to not keep medicating myself as much. So I take a vacation from my pills. Now, I know this goes against all of the scientific information that we receive, but ultimately, for me at least, my decision to take these breaks comes from one thought: I, and only I, really know what’s going on with my body. I am the only person who knows what is helping and what is not helping. And in order to really feel well, I have to tap into these feelings and act with confidence.

And the results, normally (this is not the first time this has happened) are usually quite startling. I show a major improvement that lasts for anywhere from a couple of months to a little less than a year. Am I in remission, some might ask? I don’t think so, as symptoms of my illness continue to be present each and every day. Sometimes they’re not even less severe; I just seem to accept them, live with them, and incorporate them into my life much more easily.

So as a disclaimer, I want to clearly state that I am not advising anyone else on how he or she should or should not use medicines. (I often receive emails and comments asking about certain medicines, and when I respond I clearly state that each person reacts differently to each medicine that is out there. Yes, methrotrexate a few years back did more harm than good to my body, but I know many, many people who have responded well to it.)

My previous rheumatologist did not support my decision to stop taking my medicines for certain periods of time, which is one of (many) reasons why we no longer have a doctor-patient relationship. My current rheumatologist was originally reluctant when I raised the topic about a month and a half ago (right about the time I started tapering off ALL my meds), but in the end he recommended that if I make such a decision, that I incorporate other activities such as aquatic exercise into my treatment plan.

Ultimately, the decision on how and how not to medicate my illness is one that only I can make, with the advice and support of numerous health professionals who are in my life. I know that my current plan of not medicating will not last forever, but at this moment, this is what is working for me.

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