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Creakiness Personified

Creakiness Personified

Here’s how my mornings begin: I move suddenly from restless sleep to restless wakefulness. Instead of being warm and comfortable, wishing I didn’t have to get out of my soft cocoon, I’m warm and uncomfortable, and I want to get up because maybe I’ll feel better than I do right now in bed.

For a minute or so, though, I take stock of what hurts: my knuckles and wrists; both ankles, seemingly every joint, tendon, and ligament in both feet; and at least one hip.

Whadda party!

So, I toss off the covers and sit up. Don’t think for a moment that I do this smoothly or with any sort of grace. No. It hurts my tender, achy self. I’m grumpy. I am creakiness personified.

A perfect—if overused—symbol of rheumatoid disease’s stiffened, sore, tender joints is the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I spent most of a recent evening watching that lovely old movie for at least the 50th time. Being the starry-eyed, airheaded person I am, it delighted and charmed me. Again.

When the movie got to the part where Dorothy, Toto and the Scarecrow find the Tin Man in the grove of trees, discover that he’s rusted to total immovability, and Dorothy discovers the wondrous oil can, I watched with new fascination. Wasn’t Jack Haley perfect in his personification of someone with RD moving for the first time after a night spent in bed? I sure thought so. That’s how I creak my way into my day every single morning.

I sit on the side of the bed for a few moments, gathering my courage. I know that when I put my weight down on my grumbling feet, they’re going to bark and yell at me. But there’s no choice—the bathroom at the other end of the apartment is yelling at me louder. So, I take a deep breath and stand up.

Ow! Ooch! Yowza, that hurts! Well, too bad. I walk—or rather, I gimp—down the hall, wishing that I could somehow master floating, like Glinda, the Good Witch of the East did. I bet she had RD too. I envy her the skill.

I swallow my morning cocktail of pills, all of them either treating my RD directly or supplementing that treatment in some way. I only gaze at the bottle of opioid analgesic, thinking. If I take one now, I’ll feel roughly 50 percent better within an hour. But it’s very early, yet, and the prescription strictly limits the number of tablets I can take in each 24-hour period. I may need that blessed pain relief even more later on, so sighing, I don’t touch the bottle.

Just tough it out, Wren old girl, I tell myself grimly. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.

And I do, of course. “Tough” is my hard-earned middle name.

Getting all those night-frozen joints moving more freely and with less pain takes time, though. I make coffee and feed the cats, ooching and ouching and growling my way through each small task. The highlights: pouring the heavy carafe full of cold water as fast as I dare into the coffeemaker, my teeth clamped together as my hands scream; and opening the cat-food can, first using a spoon to lever up the tight little ring tab, then gritting my teeth against the oh-my-dog pain as I slip a finger into it and peel the lid free of the can. Dang, that hurts! Every single morning that hurts!

And so it goes, as the great Kurt Vonnegut wrote. Ce la vie. That’s life.

I do my best to live one day at a time and not worry about the future. I try not, as the psychologists call it, to catastrophize. But even as I laugh with my Mom about how the two of us are shuffling ‘round the house like little old ladies in the morning (only one of us is an actual “little old lady”), I wonder how I’m going to keep my smile going if my rheumatoid disease continues to disable me this way, day in and day out, year in and year out, until I end.

Then I tell myself that if I’ve managed to muddle along, still smiling, for 29 years with RD, then I can do it for 29 more if I must. And maybe—just maybe—one of these new miracle drugs will finally vanquish my particular dragon. Or maybe one of those endlessly curious medical scientists out there will inadvertently stumble upon a cure that will work for all of us.

In the meantime, I’ll take a hot shower to loosen up my sore, tender, creaky joints, do some gentle stretching, and get on with life. After a while, my creaky smile will loosen up, too.

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.


  • dayslikethese
    3 years ago

    Thank you, Wren! Your story made me realize that I am not alone.

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, dayslikethese!
    You’re so welcome! I’m delighted to know that my posts are helpful for you and others–it means so much to know that we’re not alone as we cope each day with this disease.
    Thanks for stopping in and commenting. Come back soon and let us know how you’re doing–I want to know, and I know that others do, as well. 🙂

  • thegallopinggrandma
    3 years ago

    To open cat food tin, lever up tab with bowl of spoon, then turn the spoon round and put the other end right through the tab and over opposite side of can, then just push up ! Voila, no sore fingers ! Keep toughing it up – I love your Blogs !

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    OMG you’re amazing, thegallopinggrandma! Thank you so much for that suggestion! You’d think I’d have thought the whole spoon/catfood can thing through a bit more, but I hadn’t. My only excuse is that I’m usually still mostly asleep when I feed my kitties and my brain isn’t really “on” yet.
    I’m going to try that tomorrow morning. You’re a genious!
    Thanks for commenting, and thanks for your kind words. More blogs coming, I promise! 😀

  • cheeflo
    3 years ago

    I’ve been contending with RA since my 2002 diagnosis at age 48 and I could have written this post — it is spot on. I typically lurch around like a drunk, especially at work because I sit for long periods in front of an iMac (I’m a graphics production artist and I, too, was a typesetter earlier in my career — still my first love).

    I’m stoic about this development in my life, but occasionally I have an emotional spill when it finally just gets to me. Then I mop it up, pull myself together and soldier on. May as well be philosophical about it.

    My hands are not as obedient as they once were, which has curtailed my art making and sewing activities. Damn! That is what I mourn the most.

    I can’t really use a cane because it puts a strain on my hands and wrists. I have resisted resorting to a walker around the house because it makes me feel feeble. One day my sister said “It’s a tool, not a crutch,” which was an epiphany for me — she’s right! I use mechanical assistance for small tasks like opening jars and cans — why is a walker any different than that? It’s not, so now when I need to, I use the walker and feel glad to have it.

    I want to tell you that there are gizmos available to assist in opening ring-pull cans. I use one to open cat food cans, soup cans, etc. — it hooks under the ring, and is designed to act as a lever to break the seal. Here’s one on Amazon:

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, cheeflo!
    Thanks so much for the catfood-can opener! It never once occured to me to see if there was a tool made just for this task, and of course, there is. Now I know!
    I’ve long been an advocate of shifting how we think about the aids we use to cope each day with RD. These things aren’t symbols of weakness, and they won’t make us weaker. Instead, they’re tools that help us be stronger and more independent. TOOLS. Your sister is wise–and so are you! I’m so glad you use that walker when you need to instead of risking an injury that could further disable you.
    Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. And for suggesting that ring-pull thingy. Wow! 😀

  • MissDi
    3 years ago

    How this sounds like me in the morning — and unfortunately other times of the day – especially if I sit too long. Although I intensely dislike the fact that others are going through basically the same as I is extremely comforting — I am NOT alone and it is NOT in my head (as my Rheumatologist told me in the early days of diagnosis). And each day is such a “new adventure” isn’t it?? 🙂 I’ve been wondering where that oil can is for years LOL

  • dbm02o
    3 years ago

    Love this. Its so me every morning. God forbid I curl up on my side in a fetal position over night and wake with my fist, arm, and hand under my head. Shoulder pops, wrist pops, hand is in agony, and elbow forget it. Not to mention the lovely marks my cpac mask makes in my face that take hours to go away 🙂 I find myself doing a lot of stretching in the bed laying down before I try to get up unless, as you put it, the bathroom is calling me big time. I keep telling myself to get an elevated toilet seat again; I had one when they replaced my right hip but got rid of it thinking I would never need that or my walker or shower bench or cane ever again – HA that was 16 years ago and I felt great for a couple years after and then bam woke up one morning and could not move- took them 6 months to figure out I had RA and a couple years later Fibro along with hypothyroidism. No wonder I was so friggin tired and achy….LOL Thanks for the great article – I sat here kind of laughing and crying at the same time..

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Glad the article resonated with you dbm02o. You certainly are not alone in having morning difficulties. In this article one of our contributors looks at new research ppointing to a chemical reason for morning stiffness:

    In addition, here is an article compiling community thoughts on dealing with morning stiffness:

    Wishing you more easy mornings. Best, Richard ( Team)

  • Cassandra Bird
    3 years ago

    Wren you right so fabulously how I feel thank you x

  • Connie Rifenburg
    3 years ago

    Oh that was such a GOOD description of getting up in the morning (even to the bathroom calling down the hall- so don’t procrastinate!) The coffee, the cat, the shuffling like an old lady…. you have described my morning to a T.

    I suppose I want to say thank you for recognizing this morning ritual by telling us all that it isn’t “just me”. All of us are waiting for the magic oil can!

    And Rick, your comment about your favorite thing about morning is afternoon. 😉 that made me laugh!

    29 years, my dear Wren, is one heck of a long time to be fighting this damn disease. I look back on my past 14 yrs @ age 65, and realize you have battled more than twice the yrs I have. God bless you and keep you strong in your continued fight.

    And let us all pray for new and promising research to kill this demon we live with.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Wren, Just last night I had to tell Kelly Mack (for those unaware, she is a contributor here and I’m her husband) that this piece had been posted referencing the Tin Man, as she was making yet another Tin Man comment. She was upset (not really) that someone stole her thing. I had to inform her that somehow I don’t think that she is the only person with RA to make the connection 🙂

    Best, Richard

  • Angela Lundberg
    3 years ago

    Aw, Wren! I hope you feel better ASAP. I’ve been planning to give you a ring, actually, to see how you’re doing. Hang in there, friend! xo

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    3 years ago

    My favorite thing about morning is afternoon. Wow, I can not seem to sleep longer than a few hours and I am up for a few and back down. It is the toughest thing about RA. I want to get comfortable someplace, anyplace.

  • Steppiemum
    3 years ago

    Good morning! I felt like you had written down a description of my awakening this morning, down to the opening of the cat food can. Today is the day I take my Actemra injection and it’s warming up right now so I can take it.

    Now, I have a question. How much are we supposed to hurt with our RA drugs? I’m 1 1/2 years into this and am wondering at what point do I switch to another drug? How much pain is “normal” with meds? Is it realistic to be pain free?

    I think I’ve been a Pollyanna to believe I’m not supposed to feel something wrong with this disease.

    Enough of that, I’m structuring my day to accomplish cleaning a cupboard out, writing thank you cards, and read. I hope your day is productive.


  • Carla Kienast
    3 years ago

    Ah mornings. Aren’t they filled with a sense of … determination? My first waking thought these days is: My [fill in the blank] hurts. But you’re right. Motion is lotion — or the magic oil can — that makes things work better. Wishing you pain-free days and a magic oil can.

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, Carla Kienast!
    “Determination.” A perfect word for the force that gets us up and going each and every morning, and for what keeps us going for the rest of the day.
    Thanks so much for the good wishes! I’m still looking for that magic oil can–and I could use some pain-free days. Here’s wishing both for you, as well. 🙂

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