A bunch of people showing pain at various spots along their body due to RA. The pain spots are made of speech bubbles.

Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A New Reason to Listen to Your Body

My eyes pop open this morning and look around while I slowly wait for the rest of my body to figure out how to move again. As I lay here and wait, my thoughts ramble through my to-do list for the day. As I finally get going, I push my inner voice screaming at me in pain, down as deep as I possibly can, lift my chin, and start my day.

Pushing through RA pain

All throughout my usual busy day, my body continues to try and send me signals. But instead of listening, I just continue to push myself. I push myself to put one foot in front of the other and march painfully through everything I have to get done in my day.

Hello? Is anyone listening?

All the while pushing that voice down as deep as I can. And as the days go on, instead of responding to that inner voice, instead of listening to what it is telling me, I become more short-tempered with everyone around me.

Stop! Slow down! Rest!

My responses become extremely clipped with my children and I barely notice. My patience is pretty much nonexistent. And my body is shouting at me to stop, to slow down, to rest, and my only response is to snap at my children more as they ask questions and snarl in response to my husband’s questions.

Why can’t I listen to my own body?
Why won’t I listen to my body?

Because there’s no room for feeling bad when there is just so much to do. Before you know it- you push push push, ignoring your shouting body and then you are shouting, snapping at people, thinking there was no end in sight. Downward I spiral. Until I finally stop. I take a deep breath, and for once, just listen. I close my eyes and just quiet everything else until finally, finally I listen and hear my body screaming. But by now, my body doesn’t have the energy to send me any more signals.

A new reason to listen to my body

My shoulders sag with the weight of my behavior today. My aching joints, my overwhelming fatigue, and really, my own reluctance to listen to my own body today has made me a terrible mom. The choice to ignore my body has cost me so much today. Because I thought there was no room for my RA today, my family has paid the price in the form of a total lack of patience, empathy, and understanding.

So what is the lesson here?

Today, I’ve learned so much. Yes, we say all the time, “Listen to your body.” And I’ve had this lesson hit me in the face time and time again, you’d think I’d get it. But I’ve never paid the price in the way that I did today. Usually, I push my body past the brink and then end up parking in Flare City for the better part of a week or more. But this time, this was different.

Listen

Yes, I didn’t listen to my body. But because I didn’t listen, my behavior impacted those who I love the most. Sure, we all have “bad” days, and we continue to remind ourselves to listen to our body. But when we don’t rest, when we don’t take a break and instead yell, snarl, and snap at those we love the most because we think that what we have to “do” is SO important,  then that is a whole other lesson we need to learn.

We can’t take our pain and fatigue out on those we love, no matter how much they love us, or they won’t be around for long. That is just the simple fact of the matter.

Slow down and breathe

If you’ve ever had a day like I had, then you apologize. Explain to your children the importance of listening to your body. Calm down. Breathe. Get some rest. And do it all over again tomorrow, because that is what life with rheumatoid arthritis is. We live day to day and hope to do the best with what we have.

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