Okay, so I’ll admit up front that part of this blog post is going to be a little effed up, but I just gotta get this out.
Yesterday, on my way home from physical therapy, I realized I was at that point where even though I know my pain levels are once again reaching extreme levels, my mind has not yet fully registered this recent (exponential) uptick in pain and inflammation. I was in that weird rheumatoid arthritis limbo, where one leg stands firmly in the memories of my recent week-and-a-half string of relatively low-symptom days, while another leg plunges back into a place where I would never voluntarily go, but which years of experience have taught me that the sooner I begin to emotionally prepare for what the near future might have in store, the better off I will be.
So it really should come as no surprise that last night, I had one of my worst nightmares in a long time. (And it was only just last night, at 3:00 in the morning when I was gasping for breath, that I *finally* realized that I almost always have such nightmares right around times like this, when my mind is once again struggling to accept the reality of what is happening to my body.)
Before I share last night’s nightmare (in the hopes of preventing a repeat tonight), I guess I should first give a little bit of background. I’ve shared repeatedly that one of my favorite things to do is cook in the kitchen (so much so that my story in the Our Hands Can! photo book talks about my love for cooking). I am also a big fan of the Top Chef television show (although speaking of nightmares, I’m not a big fan of having to sit through all of the commercials for the other shows on Bravo TV–all of the constant shouting always makes my head hurt!)
Somewhere in my sleep last night, I started dreaming that I was a contestant on Top Chef. The effed up part? The guest judge was Adolf Hitler. (I kid you not.) Not only did he have a gun sitting on the table in front of him, but he was also in a really bad mood. Thus, while I slept, my anxiety about whether or not my hands would be able to perform accordingly was right around the level of a person who just drank a six-pack of Red Bulls. Somehow I managed to not only come up with my dish (silly, I know, but I remember this part of the dream with extreme detail: salmon with thinly slices hazelnuts and spinach cooked inside of a phyllo dough shell…does such a thing even exist? I don’t even know…buy hey, I was dreaming) but I also managed to cook it as well, despite the fact that my hands were in so much pain. (Little did I know at the time that this final detail was in fact, not a dream.)
The moment I served my dish and saw the nefarious judge smile as he tasted my dish–when in my dream I knew that I was indeed “safe”–I was jolted awake. A split-second later I flashed back to earlier in the afternoon, when I told myself that even though I was fully aware of what was going on with my body, I had yet to fully process it on the emotional level. Once I realized what had just happened (the nightmare, the flashback), I also realized that I was lying in the safety of my own bed, with some of the worst pain (not just in my hands, but in my whole body) that I’ve experienced in weeks, if not months.
And I lay there starting at the ceiling, amazed at the power of this disease. At it’s ability to not not only mess with one’s body, but also with one’s mind–no matter how familiar one might be with it. I was amazed at how quickly it can surge…so quickly that even though one is making a concerted effort to accept what is happening, one is still not always able to quite keep up with it.
But I was also amazed with my body’s–and most importantly, my mind’s–ability to cope with this reality. Sure, my mind may occasionally stumble and start to fall behind…but as soon as it gets its bearings (as it did in the wee hours of this morning), it swiftly moves me back into the lead, and confidently guides me through the challenges which are once again being dropped in my path.
I’ve gotten through the before, though, and I have no doubt that I will get through it again. It’s definitely not easy, but as I go into each new upsurge I now find myself determined to figure out a way to make things just a little bit easier.
Because to not do so, would mean to fall behind. I don’t run this race by choice, but while I’m at it, I’m going to run the best darn race I can.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!