Coping With It
RATE

I turned off the dryer and reached in, burying my hands in the deep-heated load of towels that had just finished the dry cycle. Oh, that felt so good! For a long moment, I just left them there, wiggling my fingers and letting the heat sink into my achy hands.

What didn’t feel so good was gathering the towels into a big wad, pulling them from the dryer and carrying them over to the bed. And folding them. Pulling each towel from the warm pile hurt. Each towel felt like it weighed five pounds and the movement tugged on my knucklejoints, making each one feel like it was being yanked out of true.

Hurting with every moment

I sighed, gritted my teeth, and got on with it. I had to finish the chore. My towels simply won’t fit into the cabinet unless they’re folded up into neat, smallish squares. But it’s not just that; not just the practicality of the job. There’s that sense of satisfaction, even pride, that I get from finishing chores like this in spite of my ongoing, always-there, aggravating, (oh, just say it!) never-ending rheumatoid disease. “There. I did it!” I mutter under my breath, feeling absurdly triumphant. And then I groan a little because there’s always another chore on the daily list and my hands still hurt.

I’m not saying I’m in a bad mood. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. But like almost everyone who has this crap disease, there’s not a day, not an hour, not hardly even a moment when I’m not hurting somewhere. And just like everyone else, I get really, really tired of it.

Getting used to the pain

My mother, who I live with and care for, watches quietly in the background as I do things around the house. Today, as we ate our lunch, she commented that she could tell I was hurting.

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I said, taking a bite from my sandwich. I wasn’t telling a white lie—level 6 pain is miserably irritating, but it’s also tolerable.

“She shook her head at me. “I don’t know how you do it,” she said. “You never say anything. If I had to live with pain like you have, I’d be complaining all the time.”

I reminded her that she lives with sciatica and osteoarthritis in her lower spine. She only rarely complains about it. “But that’s different!” she said.

But it’s not. Pain, no matter what causes it, is hard to take, but when it’s chronic, it’s also … mundane. Ordinary. After nearly three decades of handling joint pain because of my RD, I only rarely complain about it to my family or friends. It’s not that I’m strong or particularly stoic. I’m just used to it. I adjust my activity to accommodate it when I need to, as we all do.

I’ve also been writing about having RD and the pain it causes for a long time. Writing is a form of therapy, I think. It’s cathartic. It’s on the page that I do my complaining if that’s what it is. And I often write with sore, achy fingers. Finishing an article or blog post in spite of them is yet another triumph.

Each of us copes with pain in our own way. What about you? How do you cope? What’s your secret for living with the pain that RD can cause? I’d love to hear from you.

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