Panic In The Sky!

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PanicRheumatoid Arthritis Guy recently set out to gather information about the Superman comic book “Panic in the Sky”. (This time I decided not to venture into the comic book forums, and instead limited my sources to Amazon. Miss Waxie, I finally learned my lesson!)

Here is a little bit of what I found:

“Don’t confuse 1992’s Superman: Panic in the Sky! with the Adventures of Superman television episode starring George Reeves, in which Superman stops an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The epic Panic in the Sky story arc, chronicled in eight parts, was a crossover event which was published in the four Superman titles…”

And “Panic in the Sky covers Maxima’s conversion to good guy status and also paves the way for Superman and Maxima joining the new Justice League, in the post-Giffen/DeMatteis era.”

Are you panicking yet?

Seriously though, I was thinking about panic because during the last couple of weeks I had quite a few panic attacks. As anyone who has had a panic attack before can tell you, they can be very scary and unpleasant events. (Having them in the midst of a rheumatoid arthritis flare is even worse.)

I have noticed that when my panic attacks come, they usually spawn like a weird alien – increasing out of seemingly nowhere both in terms of their frequency and severity. Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is proud to announce that once again, he has beaten the Panic Attack Monster.

But, I must note – that this is a battle that I have fought many times before. It usually coincides with my rheumatoid arthritis crisis moments. During this period of healing and recovery that I am recently entering, I plan to dedicate a part of each day to learning new methods that will help prevent a recurrence of these panic attacks.

A few years ago, soon after I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I was in the midst of a major flare. One though continued to pop up again and again in my head – If I could only transplant my head onto another body, everything will be okay. I used to think it was absoutely silly for me, a grown man, to be thinking such a thought. Then I begin to hear from other individuals living with chronic pain that they too often thought the same things.

Upon accepting that I could not undergo a head transplant (hey, at least it sparked a period of science fiction reading that was fun!), I slowly began to come to terms with the concept that this way my body, for better or for worse. (If only I had signed a prenup before I was born…)

Initially, when I would reaffirm this idea to myself – the panic attack would start. An overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia would overtake me, and the only thought on my mind was I have to get out of my body, now!

Through the years I have gotten much better at accepting the chronic nature of my illness. Along with this acceptance went the realization, once again, that this was my body and I could not escape it or exchange it for another one. Being able to tell this to myself without provoking a panic attack was a hugh achievement.

Still, during the darkest moments of my most severe flares, thoughts of wanting to escape my body continue to appear, along with the panic attacks. Windows are opened to allow fresh air into the room. I lay down on the bed and try to concentrate on deep breathing. I surround myself with music and art books that can be use to create a distraction during these moments of heightened anxiety. Though frightening, these panic attacks eventually pass. And with each new panic attack, I get just a little better at coming out of them more quickly, until eventually they subside.

Right now I want to tell myself that these panic attacks will never return. But I will settle with the comfort in the knowledge that if they do return, I will get through them, like I have already done many times in the past.

If you too have faced panic attacks and have your own tricks and methods that help you cope with them, please do share!

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

Superhero Toy Chest

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LaserThe other day Rhuematoid Arthritis Guy was asked if he wanted to play with a real laser gun! Would a superhero ever turn down such an offer? Of course not. So I donned the green goggles (everything around me all of a sudden looked like it had been slimed by the Joker) and had at it. All I needed was a safe full of money to crack into.

The electrodes had just been removed from my ankles – for about twenty minutes electrical currents of varying intensity were being delivered to my body. (It’s always interesting to see the look on the technician’s face when they realize just how far up they have to go in order for my nerves to register any sensation of the pulsating current.) And even though I had been warned that five minutes into the session there was going to be a change in polarity – please don’t get scared – I still found myself letting out a short shriek of surprise when that polarity change came.

So while I played with the laser gun (hold in one place and press down on the button until it beeps in approximately two minutes, then move to another point and repeat) the technician took out the ultrasound device and rubbed it around my tendons. The metal surface would have been quite cold were it not for a large dab of anti-inflammatory gel that had previously been applied to the spot.

In between the different treatments on my hand and feet, warm water bags and towels were wrapped around my wrists and ankles to keep them warm. With the inflammation of the past weeks the circulation levels have dropped considerably, causing my hands and feet to plummet to seemingly sub-zero temperatures when left uncovered. (It amazes me how one area – the joint – can feel like it’s on fire while the surrounding area feels like it’s frozen.)

While I would like to say the above is a typical visit to a superhero spa (leave those wax strips right where they are!), I must confess that this was one of my recent visits to the physical therapist. I have been going every other day for sessions that last between an hour and a half and two hours.

Yesterday, in the room next to me was a young rugby player – bearing his latest sports injury as a badge of honor. I soon realized that they entire rugby team goes to this clinic on a regular basis to treat their most recent war wounds. I’m just waiting for one of them to ask what sport I was playing when I got hurt. This time I’m going to be a rugby player – from the opposing team!

My physical therapist gave me a Sammons Preston product catalog the other day and marked off a list of items I needed to get.  Last night I ordered some ulnar protection gloves to sleep with, some padded gloves to use with my crutches, some different types of wrist wraps, padding grips for my utensils, and a really cool knife! As I flipped through the catalog I was amazed at how many types of assistive devices exist. (It was almost as cool as flipping through Best Buy’s Sunday flyer.)

Physical Therapy Toys

On a related note, this past weekend I stumbled across FunkyArthur, a British online retailer which specializes in modern mobility equipment and arthritis aids. It’s sort of a cross between the Museum of Modern Art and Walgreens. Check it out!

I still have quite a few physical therapy sessions scheduled. The first goal is to bring down the inflammation on the ankles and wrists, followed by the knees and elbows. Once the inflammation seems to be under control, we plan on dedicating some session to strength building exercises. The first few sessions have helped quite a bit and I am looking forward to the upcoming session.

If you have any interesting stories of physical therapy, or have your own great assistive household device that you just can’t get by without, please do share!

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

The Beauty Of Movement

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Dance is the hidden language of the soul. -Martha Graham

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has a new found appreciation for movement. Movement of my wrists, movement of my ankles, movement of my hands as I pour myself a glass of water, movement of my fingers as I type at my computer.

During this past week I continued to have many episodes of severe pain and inflammation. Instead of struggling to carry on as usual, I now give my body the break it needs and lay down in bed for an hour or two. I am learning the importance of keeping my mind active during these episodes – so I can often be found meditating, reading, or listening to music. (I no longer have any regrets over the Bose headphones I shelled out for a couple of months ago!)

Even mental movement has become a beautiful thing.

A few days, during on of these episodes, I was in bed listening to music. The title song from Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria shuffled onto my iPods. All of a sudden, I was dancing in my head. Not just made up dancing, but really dancing. It was a wonderful feeling. (By the way, Alegria is Spanish for Joy.)

You see, in the yoga class that I attend – Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to more traditional vinyasa/ashtanga routines, while Friday classes are more freeform. A few months back, my instuctor ended one of these Friday classes by playing the Alegria song and telling us to just close our eyes and move. It  was such a memorable event, to experience the joy of my body moving and dancing to the music. (And, at the time, I was so happy that everyone’s eyes were closed.)

I have always been a fan of the arts, but I must admit that dance ranked pretty low on the list of types of performances I liked to attend. (Sure, I used to do The Nutcracker in San Francisco, and once was even lucky enough to see Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut in Berkeley – but it did not get much deeper than that.) I just did not “understand” dance.

But now, I understand the beauty of movement – and that is probably all I need now to understand dance. I look forward to learning more about the art of dance; particularly the many dance groups around the world that are doing such a good job of integrating disability. Three such groups are highlighted below.

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

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The GIMP Project
New York, NY
www.thegimpproject.com

GIMP beautifully resets preconceptions about bodies and movement. -The New Yorker

Choreographer Heidi Latsky presents a roster of performers who embody unique physical virtuosity. Outstanding technique, raw beauty and the physical poetry of risk- taking, propel the artists and the audience into the collective unknown. GIMP examines the uncompromising ways we are often identified or defined by our physicality; an elegant landscape of portraits, illuminating limbs to accentuate uncommon beauty, mystery and grace; the ways in which our bodies support and rebel. GIMP confronts the audience with their preconceptions, challenging us to re-think accepted notions about dance, performance and body image. An exploration, that dives into the heart of difference, voyeurism and the unexpected.

DanceAbility International
Eugene, OR
www.danceability.com

I believe DanceAbility goes beyond movement and exploration and is for many people their first opportunity to define themselves in their own terms and see that this dance form, like their lives, has many options and possibilities. -Susan Sygall, Mobility International, USA

The mission of DanceAbility International (DAI) is to encourage the evolution of mixed-abilities dance by cultivating a common ground for creative expression for all people regardless of abilities, economic status, age or race. The mission is accomplished through performance, educational programs, teacher training and workshops. DAI performs and teaches throughout North, Central, and South America, Europe and Asia, receiving local, national and international recognition.

AXIS Dance Company
Oakland, CA
www.axisdance.org

AXIS questions all of our assumptions about the possibilities of movement, subsequently expanding and enriching the art form itself. – John R. Killacky, Executive Director, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco

Prepare to leave all your preconceptions at the door — AXIS Dance Company, one of the country’s most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities, will change the way you think about the possibilities of the human body forever. The Company is known for its high artistic and educational standards and for cutting edge collaborations with world-renowned choreographers and composers. AXIS’ groundbreaking work inspires audiences and broadens perceptions of dance and disability. It’s a thrilling experience not to be missed.

Sunday Break

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Because there is no such thing as taking too many breaks!

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Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there!

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Photos taken at Barcelona, Spain. I particularly like the contrast between the hard 90-degree angle edges of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion (left) and the soft sinuous curves of Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo (right).
Barcelona

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Because we should never lose touch with the kid in all of us – I just finished reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Wonderful message on the lessons of life.

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Today’s plans: outdoor lunch on a sunny rooftop terrace.

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