Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Bottom of the Barrel

Bottom of the Barrel

Last month my father underwent an arthroscopy, or knee cleaning. During high school, forty some years ago, he sustained a soccer injury where an opponent accidentally kicked him in the kneecap and broke it in half. The injury came back to haunt him and he couldn’t walk without extreme pain and immobility.

In January, during the polar vortex, his knee got so bad that I had to walk the dogs (with my father’s osteoarthritis we sometimes find ourselves in a blind leading the blind situation) but after a couple of cortisone shots he became more mobile. Unfortunately, these shots didn’t work in the long term so his orthopedic surgeon decided to go in there and take a look.

The procedure went well and the surgeon found out why my dad was in so much pain. There were bone fragments lodged into the muscle! Yuck! My father was on crutches for two days and bed rest for a week. He then finished his recovery with one week of Physical Therapy and closed this chapter of his life (fingers crossed he doesn’t need a full knee replacement in the future).

Unfortunately, I noticed something rather upsetting. Even right after the surgery when he was on crutches my father was more able-bodied than me! In fact, he was so much so he didn’t use the crutches and snuck a walk with the dog. According to him, he hadn’t felt so good in years. Even while incapacitated my father was more able-bodied than me on a good day.


He walked without even use of a cane, he had no trouble moving in and out of a sitting position and he slept like a baby without discomfort which, for me, are all now things of the past.

Am I really the bottom of the pack? If I were any other animal in a herd I would be left for dead because I couldn’t keep up. I’m slower than the sickest mammal and thus the weakest link.

Okay, that’s a little dramatic, my biology background just came roaring to the forefront. But, the idea remains. Even at my best (I do feel like I’ve been okay this summer) I’m still behind recovering patients. Not only recovering patients but people recovering from orthopedic conditions who are well into their sixties – I’m not even thirty yet!

So, that thought now floats around in my brain, knocking out every last feeling of strength, confidence, and assurance I can deal with my Rheumatoid Arthritis and I don’t like it. Is this what it feels like when my ego deflates? When my confidence wanes? I can take Mocha out for two-hour hikes but am I really now competing against my own father? I thought I left my outwardly competitive nature with my early 20s because I stopped comparing myself to others. I’m glad I did because otherwise I’d be constantly reminded of my shortcomings. Are these just insecurities swirling around my head? I try to remember all the things I’m good at despite my limitations. But, I guess, that’s the key phrase isn’t it – “despite my limitations”. My body is at war and destroying it from the inside out. No matter how successful I am, I still scrape the bottom of the barrel, don’t I?

How do you deal with your insecurities? Let me know in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Daniel Malito moderator
    1 year ago

    Monica, ever play video games? Specifically the role playing kind? If not, there’s something you get at the beginning of the game called “attribute points.” You get a certain number, and you can divide them up amongst things like strength, intelligence, charisma, determination – things like that. A while ago whlist playing one of my games, I came up with a theory that life may just be like that. All of us have a ton of determination and intelligence, so, we don’t have any points left to use on strength (physical). I think everyone gets a limited number of attribute points in this life, and just because you dont spend yours all on strength and appearance, doesn’t mean we are worth less points than everyone else. Or maybe I’m crazy. Who knows. 🙂

  • cindyhall45
    1 year ago

    I was diagnosed at 52. Of course this isn’t the only auto immune disease I have. I was a very active person because I made myself Force through all these things that I considered hurdles. Then it just seemed like I no longer had the energy or strength to push harder. As if there was a stronger force pushing back at me. If I pushed myself I found it was physically impossible for me to get out of bed the next day. I really enjoyed vigorous and challenging exercise and activities. This has been stripped away. I was started on methotrexate and the inflammation has receded but I’m not at the point that I can hike or over exert myself to the level of exhaustion which I found so rewarding.

    I feel that I have to take each day as it comes and enjoy that day. Some mean I have to stay in bed all day because I hurt all over. While still others mean I walk with a can for added assistance getting around. And some days I can walk through a small grocery store without the help of assistive devices. I just have to take each day as it comes and deal with what I have on my hands when I wake up. I know it’s like a game of Russian roulette in the sense that I do t know what’s going to be my reality for that day, but at least I niw know what I need to do for each scenario that comes along. So I’ve longed to anticipate, b proactive instead of reactive and I’m not afraid to ask my 21 yo son for help.

  • starscream
    1 year ago

    As for our evolutionary fitness: there is evidence that the genes that cause autoimmune disorders may also help against the black plague. So even if we suffer, our descendents might survive the return of that horrific disease.

  • starscream
    1 year ago

    I’m so sorry you have RA under 30! I was diagnosed at 42. A few things that have helped me:

    1) one of my best friends has had Lupus since she was in her early twenties and is still an amazing nurse but she rests for her flares and medicates in rapid response to them. She gave me super advice for vitamins that conquer the brainfog. Neither of us could keep our jobs with brainfog.

    2) I know a young woman who has a great career who has been in wheelchairs all her life. So I figure I could manage the wheelchair when or if it comes to that and still do everything.

    3) An old friend also got RH around the same time I did and she’s done the knee replacement quite effectively to keep her career going (she stands all day). So that seems like an option too.

    All these options make me feel like I can do it and that I can still contribute to my family and the “herd”.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi starscream. Thanks for sharing these points. I’m particularly glad to see you mention that you have learned by example that you could manage in a wheelchair if necessary. One of our contributors, Kelly Mack (full disclosure- I’m her husband), has used a wheelchair since her late teens and, much like your friend, has had a great career and full life. In this article she writes about how, while the decision way back then to use the chair was difficult, it has provided a great level of independence and opportunity: Best to you. Richard ( Team)

  • Piplover
    1 year ago

    My mom is 65 and is dealing with various body aches and swellings. We don’t think she has RA, but she’s being tested. I joked that I know exactly what she’s going through, since I’ve been diagnosed since 2013, but she just looked at me and said, “But I’m an old woman, and you’re still young!” I try to be thankful for what I can do, and work on being able to do as much as I can. But I know that my days of being able to run or take long hikes are gone, and that can get really depressing.

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    1 year ago

    Oh Monica! I truly empathize with you! When times like these happen, I remind myself that the only person I have to compete with is myself. If I get out of bed and into work, I’m having a great day comparatively. If I get out of bed to the bathroom only, then it’s a flare day. I have to remind myself that it was worse before this latest med, and that I adjust normal based on the situation. I’m jealous of your 2 hour hikes, but I can ride my bike for 30 minutes. The most helpful thing I have found is to pray that God will use me, no matter how I feel.

  • kkharrod
    1 year ago

    I think we all have to look at the good times and what we can do in order to make it through bad days that put us in bed for a day or more. When my misery rate is ten out of ten and no meds or positive thinking can help, I have to remind myself that it will ease up eventually and pray for sleep. Actually, what I am having the most trouble with is feeling useful to my family and society. I have taught school and Sunday school for years, and had to leave work on Long-term Disability. I turn 60 soon, so my kids are grown. Because of pain and fatigue, I’m thankful if I have a couple good hours in the afternoon that I can babysit my niece. Since I am basically on the same sleep schedule as a two year old, and my hands are to bad for a new born, I don’t get to do that much. My pray to is, Lord, help me be helpful to someone or use me in some way.

  • Jo J
    1 year ago

    Those swirling insecurities…
    I just canceled a big vacation with my children and grandchildren because of their (completely appropriate) scheduling issues. We live in 4 different states, and one is moving from one coast to the other next year. While disappointed, even sad, about it not working out this year, my biggest worry is “what if I’m not mobile enough to fully take part in the vacay if we postpone it a year?”

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    1 year ago

    I so get that, J0dspace! I wish we could know what the future (even just the immediate future) held for us. I think well, if I am doing as well as I am right now…I think I could handle something. But, as we all know, there is no guessing what could happen next week month or year…

    Thanks for sharing on my article and I hope you get to see your children and grandkids soon!! ~Monica

  • starscream
    1 year ago

    Worried about immobility next year: just remember you can use a wheelchair for travelling. I’ve already done it at airports.

  • Poll