This Weird Reprieve

I started taking Humira in May 2019. I also graduated from Florida State University in May 2019. Since both of these events, I haven’t had that much joint pain. While I’ve still been fatigued — indicating this disease is still fiercely active — the pain is nowhere near as bad as it used to be. It’s made me think: what’s going on? Am I going into remission? What is weird little reprieve from the pain of RA?

How did stress affect my rheumatoid arthritis?

I can think of only a few things that instigated this break in the usual pain of RA. Since graduating, I've had a huge reduction in stress. Between taking four classes, writing a thesis, working 15 hours a week, teaching three classes, and heading an organization, my stress was at an all-time high. Additionally, it left me no time to fully process my diagnosis. For me, however, stress and RA are intricately connected; whenever I get seriously anxious and stressed, my pain, fatigue, and swelling significantly increase.

Having less stress and taking care of myself

Now that I am only working and not taking classes, I have had more time to relax and breathe, thereby helping me feel better. In addition to a reduction in stress, now that I am not in school, I have more time to eat better and exercise more. This also comes at an intersection with having a more established routine and planning out my time and meals officially, all of which have helped my RA improve. Although these are major shifts in my life, I did not think it would help alleviate the pain of RA.

Shifting my understanding of RA pain

In the absence of so much pain and swelling, I've noticed a cognitive shift in the way I approach my understanding of RA. Before, once I got home from work and school, I had no energy and thereby no time or energy to socialize, cook, or really, if I'm being honest, anything else. Recently, I've been able to be more active and hang out with my friends more, much more than I had been able to since being diagnosed.

Remembering how to live with the absence of RA pain

While this is truly amazing, and something I have not felt for close to eight months, a part of me does feel empty, feels missing. I've been forced to realize that pain had been such a part of my life that in the absence of it, I don't know how to live without it anymore. It's a weird feeling to wake up in the morning and to be able to move my hands, to move my hips, to move my legs around without the same level of pain as before. While I'm extremely grateful for this break in pain, it's made me cognizant of how much my life has changed since diagnosis.

I want to be clear, I am not complaining about being in this reprieve; on the contrary, I'm very much elated and am cognizant that some people with RA never feel any breaks from pain, which is truly awful. In thinking about this more, however, I am curious how many other individuals afflicted with RA have experienced cycles of pain.

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