Counterbalance

I’ve always been fascinated by images of people racing sailboats. The normally serene large and graceful upright sails that we associate with these boats gliding across the surfaces of calm lakes now appear to be tipping at very precarious angles, just seconds away from falling into the turbulent ocean water. You then zoom in on the picture, and become aware of the most intriguing part of all: the people who are practically hanging outside of the boat, balancing the entire thing while preventing the collapse of this delicate house of cards.

Having just emerged from a flare this morning that prevented me from moving (and basically, from thinking) for more than three hours, I’m sort of feeling like one of those persons who is leaning out from a racing sailboat. You see, when the pain gets so bad, and when your physical abilities become almost non-existent, it’s all about counterbalancing: doing your best to do whatever *is* possible during the moment, to prevent yourself from falling into the abyss, to keep yourself from feeling completely helpless.

How do I counterbalance during these moments of crisis, when I can’t move a limb and when my mind is so overwhelmed that it can barely connect one thought to another? I just start to envision myself doing something that I really enjoy doing; I place myself in a mental safe place…and then I stay there, until the pain and disability have passed.

Because as mindful as I try to be during these flares, as aware I try to be of what it happening during each and every minute, there are times–like today–when I just can’t. And it’s right at this point where I feel like I have a choice to make: I can either succumb to the frightening feelings which are swirling around me, or I can create a safe place for myself.

I can counterbalance the pain and disability…which is exactly what I choose to do.

So what did I do during this morning’s extremely intense flare, to keep myself calm while my body was in the midst of a storm?

First, I decided to start writing this blog post. (Want in on a little secret? More of my blog posts than you could probably imagine come to me when I am in the midst of a flare.) I imagined myself sitting in front of the computer, transferring the words that were in my mind through my fingers to the screen. Of course, I knew at the moment that there was no way to get the words out right then…but I know that soon enough, once the flare passed, I would be able to do so.

The second thing I did was envision myself taking a long, long walk through New York City. When I was there a month ago, and when I was able really about to take some of these long walks–just like I used to do when I was an architecture students at Columbia–few people who were around me were able to completely understand the excitement that I was experiencing from being able to do so. It wasn’t just that I was really taking these long walks per se, with my crutches and all, but it’s also that I was creating a completely new set of visual memories which I knew I would be able to use during upcoming flares. It was this latter part, the part which others could not see, which meant so much to me.

So as I was flaring this morning, unable to move, in my mind I was taking one of these grand walks around New York City. I could not have been happy. And just like with my typing, I knew that I really couldn’t (physically) walk at the moment. But as long as I envisioned doing so in my mind, for all practical purposed I really was walking…even though–in real life–I was temporarily paralyzed.

And this is how I counterbalanced this morning’s sever flare…and even managed to have a little bit of fun while doing so.

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

8 Comments
8 comments
  1. fridawrites says:

    I spent about an hour yesterday gripping my husband’s shirt tightly while waiting in the doctor’s office. I don’t know why it helped me get through, but it did.

  2. Joseph says:

    Wise advice, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about recently when the pain gets really bad. There comes a point when the levels of pain overtake your ability to cope with it and that’s something I’ve struggled with so maybe this will help.

    Thanks again mate. :)

  3. Jennifer says:

    I too find that blog posts and my favorite art pieces come to me during a flare and that anything we can do that we love that counterbalances the difficulty ends up making these times when we are dealing with adversity – a worthwhile time! It comes down to how we choose to focus our minds during these times. Sometimes it is easier to do than others.

    I find it “easier” to do this with a pain flare than a “fatigue” flare :)

    Great post as always! – Jenna

  4. Penny says:

    I have had RA 12 years I am just starting to have fatigue/pain flares. Mine seem to come hand and hand. Years ago I had learned some relaxation techniques that I used at that time it really calmed me down and let me think more clearly. To perform this relaxation technique you relax each part of your body , working to push the tension out through your toes. You start with your head and work down. If I dont successfully relax a part I go back , mentally, and rerelax and continue to my toes. it keeps your mind busy and helps you breath. I’m sorry you or anyone has had these episodes for years. I think sometimes the worst part of this disease is its variability between people.

  5. Tanya says:

    Funny I have found I come up with plenty of ideas for articles to write during the worse part of my flares. Usually in too much pain to sit at the computer. I have learned to try to write them down when/if I can.

  6. Kris T says:

    I really enjoy your blog and responses to what you write. Everyone inspires me to keep pushing forward without allowing fear to entrap me.

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