Getting Sick With RA

I am not a good sick person.

Now, this might seem bonkers considering I am a 3-decade alum of living with rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s true, and right now I am going through it.

I have a full-blown cold, sinus infection, whatever it is (not COVID), and it stinks. I absolutely hate being sick, and I’m not even good at it. Unfortunately, when it comes to RA and chronic illness, being sick is something you have to deal with.

Dealing with pain and sickness differently

Now, when I say I am bad at being sick, I mean actual sickness. Pain — that’s something different and a thing that I am fantastic at. I am so good at pain that the Devil himself sometimes texts me for suggestions. I can deal with pain all day long and put it in my pocket and go about my business.

It’s almost become like a constant companion without which I would feel like something was missing. I’m not even sure what I’d do if my pain suddenly went away altogether. It would be extremely offputting and odd. Sickness, though, that’s a different story.

The sickness fog

Right now, I’m fighting a headache, nasal congestion, a cough, and that awful feeling that something just isn’t right. That’s one of the worst parts about RA-induced sickness — that surreal phenomenon where you feel like things are just left of center, where your peripheral vision fades out a bit, where your brain has that sickness fog that makes everything seem just one shade wrong. It’s infuriating, and it makes me a very, very, ornery sick person. Woe to anyone who happens to be around me during one of these times.

The frustrations of falling ill

As I said, the irony isn’t lost on me how ridiculous it is that someone who has lived with the worst kind of illness, infection, bodily injury, and disease for 35 years is just a whiny baby of a patient when it comes to a head cold or anything of that ilk. Why? It’s difficult to say. Maybe because it’s the only thing that can keep me from doing the things I need to do during the day?

I have long overcome the hurdles of acting while under RA duress, but actual sickness still stops me in my tracks. I can’t concentrate, write, or do any of the things I actually like to do — the things I do to distract myself when the pain and discomfort of RA become overwhelming. That is more than likely the greatest loss of all.

Surviving the sick days

So, what do I do? Well, I mostly stay in bed or my chair and watch shows. Yeah, it’s not exciting, and it’s not productive, but it is the only thing you really can do.

Once you get the meds in you (for me, it’s usually a Z-Pak), there’s not much to do but wait, and I am not good at waiting. I have many virtues that I am proud of, but patience, well, it is not one of them. I’d love to tell you that there is some miracle cure I’ve discovered over the 3 decades of dealing with RA, but there isn’t. You can take meds to mitigate some of the cold’s effects, but there’s nothing you can do to shorten the illness itself. What’s the saying? The only way past is through.

Protecting yourself and others

So, "Do your best to mitigate getting sick" is my only advice. Now, with the ability to wear a mask in public, it makes it easier. You can wear a mask not just for COVID, but to reduce your risk of all types of illnesses. I do it, no matter what looks I get. Looky-loos aren’t the ones who have to suffer through the sniffling, sore throat, coughing, and sleepless nights spent trying to sleep sitting up.

Anyway, that’s about all there is. I’m sick, it stinks, and I don’t think people realize how much worse it is for those of us who are immunocompromised when we actually do get sick. If they did, they’d take more precautions around us, but after what we saw happen during COVID, that’s probably unlikely. So just do the best you can to protect yourself. Talk soon.

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