Freefall

balloonsAs much as I would like to think that I am prepared for every downturn that living with rheumatoid arthritis might have in store for me, the truth is: I’m not. And even though I knew that the winter conditions of the last two days were having a profound effect on my decreased mobility and increased pain levels, I still wasn’t prepared for the sudden tailspin (physical and emotional) that I entered into right around midday yesterday.

(Yes, we are moving towards summer down here in the southern hemisphere…but it’s also the start of the annual rainy season up here on top of the Andes Mountains, so when you combine wet and cold conditions with the extremely high altitude at which I live, summer ends up becoming, well, just another winter!)

One minute I thought I was just fine; the next minute I had no clue what was going on. I laid there, wondering to myself: what exactly is a person supposed to “grab on” to, when it feels like there is nothing to grab on to. Even though a more objective response to that question would show that there is indeed a lot to grab on to, the fact that my body just went from moving ‘normally’ to not being able to move at all–all in a matter of just a few short minutes–is enough (I hope) to explain why I might not necessarily be using the most logical thinking (to say the least) during such a crisis moment.

Less than a week ago, I had already started my bi-annual psych out–the mental pep-rally that I go through at the start of each (actual) winter and (summer) winter, when I start telling myself that even though I am in store for quite a ride during the next few months, everything will will be okay–all I have to do is hold on tight. Really tight!

But then my freefall started, and it felt like there was nothing to hold on to. I couldn’t even muster the strength to respond to my husband’s questions of concern: what did I need? We both knew that I was in for a big one, and that the only answer was for me to ride through it, best I could. It is during such moments, I think, when I realize that even the person sitting on the bed next to me can’t really do anything to make me feel better, when things become *really* scary. It’s like you know you have help, but you also know that you’re on your own.

As I experienced an agony unlike anything I had ever felt before (my entire spinal column was, for the first time ever, completely inflamed…and even though I was in a position that was not helping my back pain, I was not able to move into a different position) I started to tell myself that if there was nothing to grab on to, all I had to do was float…even if I was floating in some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.

Better yet, I told myself, why not fly? I’ve never shared as much, but whenever I lose complete use of my body and limbs, when I am unable to even change the music that is being piped into my earphones, I often start to fly, up in my head. I visualize myself floating through the clouds with a huge smile on my face, and I feel great, even though a little corner of my mind still knows that at the exact moment, my body is indeed experiencing the unimaginable.

Tears started to flow, as I remembered that just five days ago, I flew for real. When I floated through the sky while hanging from a paraglider this past Friday, I remember telling myself: next time you are unable to move your body, this is the place, this is the memory, that you need to come back to.

And just like that, everything started to make sense. I knew what was going on. I knew I was going to be okay. I continued to fly in my head for a little longer than I might have wished, but eventually, I came in for a safe landing.

(Thanks to everyone who supported me when I reached out for help yesterday–you all know who you are!)

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

8 Comments
8 comments
  1. Julie says:

    What a wonderful thing to imagine. Weekly I attend a positivity support group – it’s a group of women who meet and we talk about what tools we can use to help us remain positive in negative situations. Two weeks ago we talked about visualization- just like your flying!! It’s wonderful and I love that you had a specific place to go back to. Thank you for sharing – I think this post can really help a lot of people. Praying for you to feel better!!

  2. Mike says:

    Rheumatoidarthritisguy, you are amazing in the storms that you have weathered! I have been through some of the same up’s and down’s and all I can say is “keep pushing through” Even if you don’t know it, you provide inspiration for so many of us and give us a reason to keep moving in the right direction

  3. Mnoone says:

    I just found you. You are a wonderful person. Stay Cool and Inspiring!

    I just recently went through the same “locked in” phase, as I call it. I was in a group challenge to walk 2765 steps per week and I was catching up with normal healthy working people. I was so elated and I became ambitious again. Then, just one pull of my left arm from washing a small bowl of strawberries took me plummeting to almost depression state. I’m back to being half paralyzed. It was also the time that my husband became so creative in making me laugh. I am so lucky.

    Guess what, I don’t like winter again too. Another thing too, I discovered your site, I guess I can handle the winter better this time.

  4. Mnoone says:

    Sorry… A little correction there. The goal for my challenge was 12,675 steps per day. This is not realistic for me.

  5. Carla says:

    Oh man. I’m sorry. I love the flying simile. We all need to have those “happy places” to go to, and especially those of us with RA. Hope the flare was short-lived and your virtual flight has morphed into “normal” getting around. Feel better.

  6. Lene says:

    I’m so glad you have a memory of actual flying. And that you’ve practised this technique enough that you can, even in the worst moments, get yourself off the ground.

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