I have something going on with my body. I get joint pains and swelling that sometimes makes simple things like tying my shoes or putting on a sweater a 5-minute painful ordeal. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis about three years ago, but I am still unconvinced that this is what I have. Some of the symptoms line up, others don’t. I tried taking prescription medication once or twice and was only left with some annoying side effects and an overall sinking feeling that pumping myself full of drugs was probably not the best route to take.
Most of the time the pain is manageable. I feel kind of sore in the morning but by early afternoon it is mostly gone. Sometimes a sudden flick of the wrist in the wrong way reminds me that all is not well. I have become complacent with dealing with a low level of pain all of the time. Thursday I woke up with a “flare up” – the inexplicable sudden swelling and joint pain, for me usually localized in one specific area. This time it was the left wrist and hand. Just to give you an idea of what that feels like imagine doing up a button or pulling up a zipper on a sweater with said hand being so painful you almost break out in tears at the physical and mental anxiety of the situation.
I am one of the lucky ones. This does not happen frequently to me and typically only last about 24 hours. For many sufferers this is their daily existence. Nonetheless, when I go through this I become extremely depressed and inevitably feel extremely sorry for myself. This is the time of making vows regarding healthy eating, exercise, and being generally proactive. “I am determined to get to the bottom of this” I say. And eventually the pain fades, and I get tired of thinking about this, and things return to the norm. Mostly because trying to figure this out is a confusing and frustrating labyrinth to maneuver; there is no one answer, there is no one specialist to see, there is no one guide book called “So You Have RA” that will give a simple explanation to what is going on and how to stop it. There are thousands of books, websites, doctors, alternative health practitioners, lay people who have some piece of a much greater puzzle. I myself hold a huge key myself in that RA is extremely different in different people. Why am I still able to manage the pain without meds while others develop the disorder at such an alarming rate that they go from diagnosis to wheel chair in just a few months? No one knows.
And that is what the scariest aspect. No one knows. No one can tell me if I can or will get better. No one can say if this will all take a turn for the worst one day and I will never recover. Every flare up is a reminder that this could be permanent going forward. Doing that button up could be this painful from now on.
So, how to deal? Put on a happy face? Think how things could be “much worse”? Be grateful for the good stuff? That is all well and good and is typically what I do to stay sane. But sometimes, I just want to punch things and cry and ask “why me?”, and maybe stomp my feet a little and yell about how unfair it all is. And maybe get some “get well” cakes and balloons delivered to my house. And maybe someone could give me a hug and say “poor you”. All pretty unproductive I know, but sometimes reverting back to a five-year old is really the most desirable thing. Yes you get hugs and balloons and sympathy, but more importantly, at that age, you believe that someone does have the answer. Someone can make this all better. And that would be the most comforting thing of all right about now.