Over the past year, one of my main personal goals has been figuring out how to continue living a life that I enjoy, while accepting the presence of chronic pain. I think I’ve made great strides in this regard, as so many aspects of my life – from the beauty of establishing a daily schedule that works well with my illness, to my ability to exercise regularly, to the continual joy that can be found through the exploration of different books, music, and works of art – have indeed improved over the past (almost) full decade in which I’ve been living with rheumatoid arthritis.
But, over the past few days, I’ve been reminded that the constant pain that one encounters while living with a chronic debilitating condition is not just physical, it’s also emotional. When every cell in your body is screaming at you and telling you not to move, when you’ve got to find a way — once again — to trick the joints and muscles into responding to your commands, when you realize that the most “simple” acts of movement often require the most willpower to accomplish, it’s easy to start to feel tired.
And by “tired” I don’t mean that I’m looking for an easy way out, for a quick escape. Maybe I’m using it as an umbrella term which includes many feelings, including depression. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive at the moment, because of yesterday’s episode of pain and inflammation in my hands during which I was unable to look at my rheumatoid arthritis directly in the face, as I’ve (somewhat proudly) built up the strength to do during these past few months. It was one of those moment where doing so would have meant losing my breath — literally, as my anxiety grew beyond what I was used to dealing with. I remembered that I need not be proud; I just needed to get through this episode…so I looked away.
By looking away, I wasn’t ignoring what was happening at the moment (as if pain of that magnitude can even be ignored) and I wasn’t trying to control the emotions that I was feeling; I was just trying to get through the moment, in whichever way I could, with my breathing and my thoughts intact. And I guess it’s this stark reminder that pain always operates in the physical and emotional realm, and the fear that results from being pushed so close to the limits that one is normally comfortable with, that I am reacting to at this moment.
I’m already healing, I know…but I’m still in pain.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!