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!

HealthCentral: Back To School Guide For Parents With Rheumatoid Arthritis

With Labor Day weekend behind us, all of the kids have slowly made it back to school.  In my family’s case it is “to school for us.”  After having my kids home with me as homeschoolers all their lives, they are giving high school a try this year.  Their first day was August 14th. My son is going part-time taking two electives and still considered a homeschooler while my daughter will be a full-time public school student who is also running cross country.

As they were preparing for their first days of school, I started thinking about how life might have been different for me living without my kids at home with me.  “It’s a good thing we homeschool momma and can be here during the day to help you when you need it.”  This was something my children used to often say as they helped me dress or undress.  Honestly, as a homeschooling momma, I did feel lucky to have my kids home with me where they could help me when I needed a hand getting my shirt off or my buttons buttoned.  As early as six and eight years old my children were learning that as much as they needed me, I also needed them.  I needed their physical help around the house moving light objects, picking things up from the floor, and more.  I also needed the constant hugs they gave me throughout the day reminding me that no matter what rheumatoid arthritis had in store for me, I was still a momma that was loved.

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