Woman tired exhausted no energy low energy walking bent over arms hanging

Grappling with RA Hangover

Last updated: October 2021

I wake up feeling like I’d spent the last night on a bender with Keith Richards.

My eyes are scratchy, my face is red, my mouth is dryer than the desert, and my bones ache like I sustained a beatdown in 8 rounds with Mike Tyson.

And what did I do the night before? Went to bed for 9-plus hours after a cup of decaf tea.

Yes, people, welcome to the RA hangover. Here, we have all the minuses of feeling terrible without the pleasant pluses of a night of carousing and trouble-making.

I wake up feeling exhausted

I’ve joked for a long time that I wake up feeling exhausted, but it’s really not much of a joke when it is regularly true.

Some mornings, I wake up feeling like I was fighting, tossing, or doing much worse all night instead of sleeping in my bed. Unfortunately, it is the result of years of severe RA.

It seems that I can never sleep enough, so I just get up and get on with my day as best I can.

On very bad mornings, I take some Tylenol in addition to my daily prednisone. A little extra anti-inflammatory and pain treatment can help smooth the edge of a severe RA hangover by lessening my periodic neck ache with a side of headache.

RA hangovers are next level

Fatigue is a beast, but to me, these mornings are next level. They are a combination of fatigue, pain, and brain fog. It feels like the remnants of a rough partying night, only without the fun bits.

It can be hard to explain to others: “Yeah, really hungover today. RA hungover.” Puzzling look.

“You know, when you feel like you’ve been trampled by an elephant and wrung dry without any alcohol to make it enjoyable?” Scared look, half-turned to runaway.

RA hangovers aren’t easy to describe nor for others to easily understand.

It wasn't always this way

I didn’t feel this way in my childhood, so I attribute these mornings to the decades of disease and sleep deprivation.

After I started using a sleep apnea machine, the hangovers became fewer and less severe. Unfortunately, I think I’m back at my usual again.

Now that I’ve had RA for more than 42 years, I keep thinking I’m in new territory.

There are not a lot of us that have had the disease for so long. New treatments and other benefits of healthy longevity have helped us. It also may be complicated by my diagnosis at age 2.

Little known about JRA patients in middle age

In any case, I sometimes think of myself as an explorer trying to find the next thing that may harm me and, somehow, survive it. Not always a helpful frame of mind, but I’m trying to have a sense of adventure!

There’s little that is known about what happens when JRA patients reach middle age and beyond. At least, I have found little information on it and would imagine the experiences may be constantly changing and specific to individuals tailored to their disease experience and response to treatment.

I keep on going, RA hangover or not

I’m hoping that, while other RA patients may struggle in the mornings, that we all don’t wake up feeling beaten and bruised like I sometimes do.

It occurs to me that I know I am tough when the worst part of my day can be getting up and yet I still do it anyway. Perhaps I should replace the bunny in those Energizer battery commercials? I keep on going, RA hangover or not.

It may not be pretty. But RA hangovers are real and a struggle. My method of coping is to move slow, take some medication to help, and keep moving slow until my body catches up. If nothing else works, back to bed and try again another day!

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