My Own Personal Serenity Prayer

I had big plans for this morning. First, I was supposed to wake up early to take my dog Alva to the vet, so that we could check her blood sugar levels. Then, later in the morning we were going to do some shopping, followed by lunch at whatever restaurant happened to be in the vicinity of wherever we found ourselves at noon.

[For someone who used to cross the world with specific restaurants in mind, and who once ate black moss in China (it was actually quite good), I now find myself being more and more satisfied with whatever eating spot happens to be across the street!]

As soon as I was supposed to wake up, however, I knew that something was wrong. The first thing I did was mentally reschedule the visit to the vet; we could just as easily go on Monday as we could go today. I was unwilling to cancel my late-morning and lunch plans, though. My partner immediately suggested that we go ahead and reschedule these plans as well, but I preferred to “wait and see how I felt.”

And these were the last words I spoke, until I finally woke up many hours later, at 12 noon.

During those intervening hours, I experienced one of the worst flares that I’ve experienced in a long time. No matter how bad things might get, I’m rarely willing to think of my rheumatoid arthritis as being in charge. (I can’t control a lot of things, but I can always control how I react to what might be going on.) This morning it wasn’t even a contest, though…and apparently my calls of forfeiture went completely unheeded, as I got absolutely walloped for the next few hours.

A couple of aspects of my reaction to what was happening stand out.

First, while I was in the worst of my flare, even though I was asleep, I was still quite aware of what was going on. I could do very little; even turning around in bed seemed next to impossible. While all of this was going on, I was somehow able to put my mind and my thoughts in a good place, so much so that I started dreaming that it was move-in day at the college dorms. (No matter how old I was, during the night before starting another year of studies, I always used to feel like a little kid on Christmas eve!)

Second, as soon as I woke up, I found myself starting and moving on with my day as best I could. Yes, I have to cancel my first afternoon session of tutoring, but I did follow through with my second session later in the day. It used to be that flares such as this one, and losing my entire morning, used to put me in such a foul mood that I would not only snap at everyone around me, but that I would also feel depressed if not for days, then for weeks.

Today, I didn’t feel such a thing. Even as I experienced the wide-eyed amazement that naturally arises from knowing that I once again went through *that* much pain, I felt okay. Part of my was proud, when I realized how well I had gotten through this latest episode. Another part of me was humble, when I realized exactly what I had just, once again, gone through.

I continue to learn one of the most important lessons of living with this crippling disease:

Even when I have no control over my body, I have absolute control over my mind.

And as long as I continue to know this thought, believe this thought, and practice this thought, I know I’m going to be okay. It’s become, in a way, my own personal serenity prayer.

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

10 Comments
10 comments
  1. Linda Robinson says:

    RA Guy, your description of this terrible flare is inspirational and grounding. I feel am sorry you have to endure this kind of pain. I have been lucky, only having considerable pain once in a while, but I can totally relate to your idea of quiet serenity. I do the same and can remember after a particularly painful childbirth (4 kids but the other 3 had pain relief), being all but mute afterward for quite a while. I just couldn’t/didn’t want to speak. Somehow, the pain changes us and we need to be alone and quiet in our mind until we can look past the experience. Hoping your new meds give you some relief and FAST!

  2. Elizabeth Wald says:

    RA Guy,

    Thanks for being so human. Thanks for clarifying this disease, our flares and our pain – with words often difficult to put together in such a lucid manner. This is our reality, but you also reveal the hope to our reality. Thank you for your words of hope.

    Elizabeth

  3. Deb aka abcsofra says:

    Gentle (((hugs))) across the miles to help lift your spirit, lighten your load of pain and to let you know that your are loved by many here. When I read your day’s story I am proud for your courage, your determination and your ability to ride it out. But I am also very, very angry that there is yet a full understanding of how ra really works and why these things transpire and how all these different elements of this disease play together. I am just soooo tired of doctors treating the symptoms of our disease(s) instead of the cause. They really have no clue as to the cause or even how it all fits together. I keep hoping and hoping that someone, somewhere makes a breakthrough. And in the meantime I keep hoping that we all have the mindset, the emotional strength and the determination to overcome this disease. Hoping that you have some pain free days ahead…truly.

  4. Jennifer Dye Visscher says:

    RA Guy – Thank you very very much for this post. I do think we get to a place where we can deal with what we couldn’t at one time handle. I try to share this concept with people – that your outlook and ability to manage changes over time. You illustrated this so well! Jenna

  5. Alanna says:

    Thank you for sharing! You continue to be an inspiration for this newbie. I appreciate learning about your experiences with this disease, it helps me to keep moving forward with a positive attitude.

  6. Linda Basta says:

    I so appreciate your posts. I’m not always able to express my feeling, and it helps to know others feel the same.
    Thanks for being willing to share.
    Linda

  7. BethB says:

    Amen RA guy!!!!! Woke at 330 am this morning with a hot serated knife twisting in my left knee. Needed to miss my master’s program class from 8am to3pm. They skyped me in and I got to participate…my professor set it up and one of my classmaes made sure I was engaged in all the action. I am such a lucky girl!! It is 3:16 pm now and I can weigh-bare a bit with use of my walker. I am proud of myself for not just crumpling into a ball and crying all day or for taking a vicodin and sleeping all day!

    I appreciate your blog more than you can know. Thank you

  8. Lene says:

    adaptation in a nutshell. The ability to compartmentalize an experience like this is part of why you are superhero when it comes to coping! ;) Being able to separate such an experience from the rest of your life means you’re able to continue living your life without being dragged down. in a situation where we often have no control of how we’ll feel, finding something you can control makes the difference between existing and living well.

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