Continued Happiness, One Minute At A Time

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This past week I spent time in my old college town, also known as New York City. This visit was originally supposed to cap my extended visit here in the United States, but after my mother had a stoke earlier this summer, I changed my travel plans and pushed my return trip back to the end of August. By the time I return home in a few weeks, I will have been away for a total of three months and three days.

The other day I was telling a close friend that this will always be “the time I traveled non-stop for the entire summer and lived out of a suitcase.” What I didn’t say at the time, but was thinking to myself, was that this will also always be the time that I firmly feel like I’ve gained the upper hand when it comes to living with rheumatoid arthritis…and if there is such a thing as “conquering” this disease, I feel like I have done so.

Strong words, coming from a person who was (once again) almost completely immobilized by a sudden flare just a few short days ago. I can say, however, that I have truly learned that the secret of success has nothing to do with the presence and frequency of my RA symptoms (although learning how to minimize them, even slightly, is very important), and has everything to do with how I cope with the pain and disability.

I’ve learned that even when I have little control over my body, I have complete and absolute control over my mind. I’ve said before that due to the chronic pain, I always feel like I am just sixty seconds away from a major panic attack. In a way this is true, as I have–on many occasions–experienced firsthand the absolutely frightening downward spiral that is prompted by a thought such as “this pain is never going to go away.”

I’ve also learned that even though the pain is constant, as are the corresponding pangs of fear, so too is my ability to stay calm, and to stay relaxed.

A few weeks ago, my 20 year old niece was asked to go upstairs and check on me, as I lay in bed in the midst of a major flare. I didn’t know she had done so until we were talking over lunch the next day. I was telling her that the previous day’s flare was one of the strongest that I had experienced in months, when she responded that she knew; she could see the pain in my body and in my face when she had gone up to check on me the day before.

She also told me that she doesn’t know how I do it; that is, live with the constant pain.

I was a little taken aback…not because the her words made me feel uncomfortable in any way, but because I realized that I didn’t have a good answer to the question.

Because to be honest, I myself don’t really know how I live with this pain all of the time. I just know that I do.

And while it does continually feel like I’m only just a minute away from a complete meltdown, I also know that I’m also just a minute away from another minute of life, another minute of continued happiness.

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

12 Comments
12 comments
  1. GinaRClark says:

    Your posts are always enlightening. This one touched my heart. Your genuine look at what it’s like to deal with the ebb and flow of Rheumatoid Arthritis is an authentic counter-point to the pharmaceutical ads that claim we just take a shot of their very expensive medicine and then resume our lives as if all is once again well.

  2. Melissa says:

    I was in bad shape yesterday – I had to stay home from work. It was one of the worst flares ever and I’m still in a lot of pain today but doing better in comparison. But, through all of that, I realized I’m very lucky to have a husband and friends that care so much. I’m lucky, I really am.

  3. Joseph says:

    Struggle with the pain in so many ways. One day I hope I can conquer it too, but right now I doubt it. Maybe it’ll come with age and experience. Do my best and sometimes I don’t realise the pain we have to live with, but I always feel I can do better.

    Hope you had a good trip mate. :)

  4. MollySu says:

    I had a very bad flare the whole of last night til morn. The pain was unbearable and i always lost hope n control of myself when this happen. Yr post here is very encouraging , I will try to remain relax n in control of my mind like u do. You are an inspiration! Pain free hugs and enjoy yr holidays!

  5. Chris S. says:

    Thanks for the post. I can relate to this completely. While at PT earlier this week I had the student working with my guy tell me she doesn’t understand how I handle the pain every day and she was amazed at my positive attitude. Told her I don’t have a choice. I almost have to laugh at it otherwise I would be miserable so I take it moment by moment much like yourself.

  6. Lana says:

    I am glad that you were able to enjoy this time with your family but I am sorry about your mother’s stroke. I also glad that you feel like you have conquered living with RA – it is an important part of living successfully with this disease. But you are right, flares can set us back. I consider myself strong and I have been through a lot more than most but a flare can send me to knees. Like you, I have learned that I have no control of my body and knowing that is enough to make me vulnerable at the next flare. I always say that I may not have control about how I physically but I have control of how I respond. That response isn’t always the best that it could be. Your niece’s comment is one I hear often amongst family and close friends. There is really no response to it because for me, at least, I feel like I am just muddling through a flare. I don’t know how I do it, I just know that I do.

  7. Debra says:

    I appreciate this post so much, it is easy to get discouraged amidst the ups and downs of RA but I am determined not to let it beat me.

  8. Gretchen Thompson says:

    Oh my… I just found this website – soon after being diagnosed with RA – and feel this amazing FLARE of hope and encouragement all through me! Sorry to be so dramatic, but… thanks for being there everybody, words can’t tell how much this helps. Now I know I’m not crazy, and I’m not alone.

  9. Penny Savoie says:

    Love your blog! I have had RA for 12 years. The way I cope with pain is I keep a list in my head of things to do to releave pain. i run through each one and then give in to Vicodin. My Jacuzzi often sooths me wether it gets rid of the pain or not. Sometimes i want to sleep in the Jacuzzi, afraid I would drown. I am impressed with your attitudes, some times I get really bummed. my husbands love and understanding is the only thing that keeps me going. Have to say my pain is a lot more manageable now that I am not working. I quit work when all my vacation time and weekends were spent ill.

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