Just as quickly as I bungee jumped into my latest flare yesterday, the invisible elastic cord snapped and pulled me right back out. Today, I am happy to share that I am back to my usual normal. No, that doesn’t mean that I am pain-free, or that the inflammation has gone away completely. It just means that I’m back to the level of disease activity that has become a part of my daily life.
Like I said a few weeks ago, after I go over a horrible stomach bug, it feels like a blessing just to get back to the pain and disability that I have grown used to.
And the more I think about it, being in a flare is actually very similar to bungee jumping. I jumped once myself, many years ago when I was still in grad school. It wasn’t the typical straight off a bridge jump, but was more of the Las Vegas style huge arch type of jump…still, it was scary (and exhilarating) as heck!
Let me start, though, with the differences. With a real bungee jump, you have time to prepare yourself…mentally and physically. You start telling yourself that yes, you can do this. (Of course, the second you jump, those thoughts turn to what the heck was I thinking?) You strap yourself in, over and over again, and all of the buckles and belts and so on are checked, and double checked, and triple checked. Then, finally, you step out on the edge (or in my case, are raised to the top), and then one…two…three, the jump begins!
With yesterday’s flare, there was absolutely none of this preparation and forethought. The most simple explanation would be that it felt like while you were sleeping, someone put on the body harnesses, snapped all of the buckles, hoisted you up, and then pushed you over the edge into your freefall. Only when you are in that seemingly endless descent do you actually wake up, open your eyes, and realized what’s going on. This is what it feels like to wake up with a major flare.
And when one is actually bungee jumping, those first few seconds of fear immediately turn into one of the biggest rushes ever. It feels so good to just fall free, while the air is brushing against your body. Of course, in a real free fall one knows more or less where the end is going to come (hopefully, before one reaches the ground..haha!), so one can actually sit back (figuratively speaking, of course) and enjoy the experience. Now let’s get back to a flare. While in a flare, there is this same sensation of extremely rapid downward descent. There is, however, absolutely no indication of when the end will be reached, when things will stop getting worse and once again return to normal. There is no moment, not even one second, to stop and take a break. Sometimes it feels like there is even no time to think, and nothing to grab on to.
Yesterday, I was able to pass though my flare with much less anxiety than I previously used to experience. (And no, I am not going to say that I actually enjoyed it–like an actual bungee jump.) Looking back, I realize that I have much more confidence in my ability to get through this flare. As long as I know, during every moment, that I am doing what I need to in order to take care of myself, I feel just a little better. Quite often what I need to do in five minutes is going to differ from what I need to do now, but I’m going to concentrate on the now. I’ll concentrate on what I need to do in five minutes when that moment arrives.
I’m also starting to figure out that trying to figure out when the flare is going to end actually makes the flare seem even worse. If I tell myself things are going to get better in a couple of hours, and two hours later I’m feeling worse, well then the original challenge that I am dealing just increased in terms of complexity. So, for the first time ever in a flare as severe as yesterday’s, I honestly did not once wonder when it would end. I just knew that eventually, I had no idea when, I would reach the bottom and then start to bounce back up. In the meantime, (back to my previous point) I was going to continue to focus on what I needed to do at the moment. Every hour, every minute, every second.
If I want my flares to immediately go away, and they don’t, I’m always going to refer to them as lasting much longer than they were supposed to. If I just keep my mind open, and bunker down and continually take care of myself (and reach out!) during a flare, then once it’s over I can actually say that it ended more quickly than I expected.
Once again, I can say that I survived my most recent flare.
For the first time ever, however, I can also add that it finished much sooner than I could have ever expected. (The secret, of course, being that I had no expectations about when it was supposed to end.)
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!