The Armor of Rheumatoid Arthritis

I sometimes feel like an armadillo. Sounds very strange, I know.  But I think it is intriguing to look at how we relate to other animals in nature in terms of our own circumstances. 

The features of the armadillo - such as their armor-like, leathery skin, the slow way they move, the fact they often sleep 19 hours a day, their tendency to curl up in a ball when provoked, etc- all make me feel I have a lot in common with these mammals.1

Shared traits with an armadillo

Let’s look at some of our common traits. Their leathery skin could be the perfect description for mine at times.  My skin is excessively dry and often resembles parchment paper.  Very difficult to treat and nothing seems to relieve the dryness or leathery appearance.  That armor like toughness is not easy to manage.

Moving slowly due to mobility

The slow way they move certainly is something I can relate to at times, particularly when I am flaring.  I simply cannot move any faster, despite my desire to do so. My joints will not cooperate and mobility can be very limited when I am having a bad flare. To say I move slowly is an understatement.

A lot of sleep due to RA fatigue

The fatigue and tiredness of RA often lead to periods where I sleep for an excessive amount of time, sometimes 10-12 hours.  Not that far off the sleep of the armadillo. That said, it is not a restful sleep but rather one that my body demands as a way to cope with the RA flares.

Retreating into my own world

The curling into a ball is more figurative than literal.  While dealing with RA, I have been known to retreat into my own world, shutting out the noise and interference of the world around me. Curling into a ball can be an escape mechanism when the world is just too daunting to deal with at the moment.

The armor of armadillos

The interesting thing about this is how the animals in nature can be a reflection of who we are at any given time. I think the armor part of the armadillo is meaningful on a few levels.  Of course, the most obvious is the actual armor of their bodies.  We too have that in the sense of how we often cover our bodies with braces, neoprene gloves and sleeves, etc., to protect our joints.

Armor to protect us from the intensity of RA

But what I find interesting about the armor piece is the concept of armor from a psychological point of view.  We have a lot to handle in our journey with RA.  Sometimes I wish I was made of armor so that I could feel protected from the elements in the world that cause me pain or make my RA more intense - like the people I encounter who are insensitive to this disease or the insurance people we have to do battle with to get coverage for our treatments. 

We go to war nearly every day in some fashion and having armor to shield us from this would be delightful.  Imagine a world where we could get into our armor each day and venture into the world, knowing we would be protected from the worst aspects of having RA.  Interesting thought.

Nan

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