Projecting Wellness

During every extended flare, there comes a point where I just know that the worst has passed, and that better days are around the corner. This doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly pain free, or that my joints aren’t creaky and stiff. What it usually does mean is that I’m tired of the pain, and that I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed. I feel like I’m once again being pushed closer to that edge, into that downward spiral where things will only get exponentially worse. Instead of accepting this as the inevitable outcome, however, I’ve learned–from experience–that the best reaction is to do the complete opposite. The best thing to do, at least in my case, is to start projecting wellness into my life…every moment that I can.

And the results are so good, that the only thing that I am left doubting is why I didn’t do so sooner. (But, I’ve also learned, there are periods when I need to let my rheumatoid arthritis run it’s course, before I step in and try to turn things around.)

I think know that this change took place last week, just as I was beginning to have some of my worst days of this recent extended flare. This past Tuesday, I went back to swimming pool (after not doing so for more than a month due to first a two-week cold, and then my flare) and was slightly disappointed when I was told that the new registration started not on that day, but a week later. But a funny thing happened…as I walked away, I felt little better, just knowing that I would soon be back in the water doing some gentle movements and stretches. I wasn’t exercising yet, but my body definitely got the message, and seemed to be happy.

And then came World Arthritis Day, and my personal challenge which I shared with my readers to reclaim one thing. As I read all of the comments that different people left, I was fascinated even more with the thought of turning the tide; that is, bringing things back into our lives as opposed to having arthritis take them away. And I mean this from a point of realism…I know that RA brings a lot of challenges and obstacles into daily life, but I’ve always said that my “can do” list will always be longer than my “can’t do” list. (It’s interesting, how the exact thing that seems to take something away can also be the exact same thing that seems to add something new.)

Towards the end of the week, as I’ve previously written, I went to the dentist’s office for a filling. Earlier today I went in for a dental cleaning. And while this is not nearly as enjoyable as something such as a spa experience, for me there is a lot to be gained from the knowledge that I am indeed taking care of my body. And like I wrote above, my body definitely hears this message. (As does my rheumatoid arthritis, which by this point is beginning to feel less in control.)

This past weekend, evidence of this turnaround was noticeable for everyone to see. I woke up Saturday, feeling a little achy…but less achy than usual. I noticed that the muscle contractures along my back, which had been there for more than two weeks, were gone. I went to visit a friend (my physical therapist, in fact) who was in the hospital, recovering from surgery. I went shopping to the local market, and purchased some fresh vegetables. I came home, and spent a few days cooking in the kitchen. That evening I went to sleep feeling good, and wondering what the next day would bring.

And when I woke up Sunday, feeling even better despite the fact that I had done much more than usual during the previous day (often referred to as “doing to much”), I cautiously wondered how long it would last…and before I knew it, Sunday evening arrived and I realized that it had in fact lasted all day. While living with rheumatoid arthritis, there is always something magical about have consecutive days of low to minimal pain. During the day, I took the dogs for a walk…and took one of my longest naps in a long time. (There is something even more magical about waking up, pain free, from an afternoon nap. Usually fatigue drags me to sleep, and the pain slaps me awake.)

And today? Well, I’ll keep it simple: Day 3! It’s 2:30 in the afternoon, and just around this time I’d usually be going into my second flare of the day. I’m also cooking (something usually unheard of on a weekday), as I’ve got a huge pot of homemade spaghetti sauce stewing away.

And tomorrow, I finally get to go back to the swimming pool!

[Someone kindly reminded me to not stop taking my medicines, now that I’m feeling better. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I actually have not taken any medicines during the past seven months.]

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

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On Flares And Fillings

I started today with one of those mornings. You know, those days when the pain doesn’t even wait for you to wake up before making its presence known. (Sort of like an eager kid at 5:00am on Christmas morning, wondering if it’s time to wake the parents.) Other than the extreme pain, there wasn’t much that could be considered unusual about this beginning to my day. (Come to think of it, there’s wasn’t much that could be considered unusual about the extreme pain.) Just another day in the life of any Rheumatoid Arthritis superhero…

Except for one thing: I was scheduled to go to the dentist at 10:00am, in order to replace a filling the fell out last week (resulting in extreme sensitivity to anything hot or cold.) My first thought was how could I possible undergo such a procedure, especially on such a flaretastic day like this one. And then, suddenly, my inner-negotiator appeared (remind me to ask for credentials next time)…and offered up this suggestion: But what better day is there to go to the dentist? You’re already in such considerable pain, that you’ll barely even notice the additional pain! (Hang with me, please…after all, I’ve never claimed that I always think rationally when I’m in the middle of a flare!)

So I decided not to cancel my appointment.

And now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that things turned out exactly as I should have expected (had I thought about things a little more carefully, of course.)

The peak of my flare coincided (perfectly, I must say; it could not have been better planned) with the exact moment when they clipped on my bib and reclined the chair into a horizontal position. (On the plus side, at least I was now laying down…now all I had to do was pretend that I was back in bed, where I should be!) I told myself that this was my last opportunity to call if off. I fast-forwarded a few seconds into the future, and envisioned myself trying to explain to the roomful of people (in addition to the dentist, there were actually four assistants!) that raising the white flag had nothing to do with nervousness, and had everything to do with the fact that my invisible illness was flaring…but I could already see the incredulous looks on their faces.

So instead, I bit the bullet, and told myself that the absolute worst would soon be over (and I’m still not sure if I was referring to my flare, or to my filling.) I took a deep breath, revved up the iPod, and started to relax. Less than a minute later, the gave me an injection of dental anesthesia on the right side of my mouth. Within a few seconds, everything located within an imaginary golf-ball sized sphere around my tooth was numb. I couldn’t feel a thing.

And as they started working on my tooth, I suddenly felt better…because right at that moment, I started to imagine how awesome it would be to get a corresponding shot of anesthesia in each and every one of my joints. (Once again, please refer to my disclaimer at the end of the second paragraph.) I so much wanted this crazy vision to really be true, that in a weird sort of way I could actually sense tiny spheres on each of my joints, taking away the pain.

Here I was, getting my tooth drilled in the middle of a flare, and I was (somewhat surprisingly) okay. I wasn’t trying to be a hero, and I wasn’t trying to prove how strong I was…I just wanted to get it over with. I think that sometimes, when flares become so frequent, it can actually be more of a challenge to schedule activities around them, as opposed to just moving forward as planned. (Haha, I love how I’m still trying to rationalize the decisions I made this morning!)

And there you have it: the somewhat silly, but true, story of how I got a filling while in the midst of a major flare.

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

Happy World Arthritis Day!

Today, in honor of World Arthritis Day 2011, I’m going to start working on a new personal challenge…and I’d like to invite my readers to participate as well. Yes, rheumatoid arthritis has taken away a lot from our lives…but I think it’s about time that we start taking back what’s ours…one thing at a time!

Will you join me in this World Arthritis Day challenge? 

World Arthritis Day Challenge: Take Back What’s Yours!

On this day before World Arthritis Day 2011, I would first of all like to thank everyone who has helped raise awareness of Rheumatoid Arthritis during these past few days; the number of people who continue to share and read RA Guy’s 60-Second Guide to RA has been greater than I could have ever imagined. To me, this shows that together we all have the power to raise awareness of this disease with which we live!

Living with rheumatoid arthritis, or any other autoimmune disease, brings many challenges into a person’s life. Raising awareness, and educating others about the particulars of our chronic illness, goes a long way in making things just a tad bit easier. Beyond this, however, are all of the personal challenges that result from the chronic pain, debilitating inflammation, and disability.

All too often, rheumatoid arthritis seems to take away so much from our lives. It could be that performing our favorite physical exercise or sport just becomes too much to do, or a loss of dexterity in our hands causes us to stop enjoying some of our favorite hobbies. Other times, what illness takes away can be much more comprehensive; we start losing our ability to enjoy life, and find it much more difficult–in general–to experience happiness.

While at times it may seem that changing this flow of events is just too daunting, I–for one–believe that doing so is possible. So, starting tomorrow, I’m going to present myself a new challenge…and I’d like to invite my readers to participate as well. Yes, rheumatoid arthritis has taken away a lot from our lives…but I think it’s about time that we start taking back what’s ours…one thing at a time!

Here’s how it works:

1. Reclaim one thing, big or small. It could be that favorite sport or pastime that seems to have slowly faded away during the past few months or years, or it could be that dream that you’ve always had…even before rheumatoid arthritis entered your life. ‘Reclaiming’ can mean many things; it could mean doing something just as you’ve done in the past, or (and for me this is even more interesting) figuring out how to adapt or modify a certain activity to fit your current life. Even more, it could mean replacing something that has been taken away with something else that is completely new!

2. However long it might take you to do so, enjoy your ability to reclaim one thing! Keep it private, and use it as a daily reminder to let yourself know that you–and not your illness–is in charge of your life. Or, share it with the rest of us, and let others be encouraged by your success. I will post here on my blog (either with your name or anonymously, it’s your choice) any messages I receive from individuals describing how they have indeed been able to RECLAIM | One Thing.

Happy World Arthritis Day 2011!

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