I am not a morning person. I pretty much hate mornings, actually.
Even before I had RA, I was always happier and more comfortable being a “Night Owl” and getting things done later in the day and at night rather than trying to wake up perky and peppy early in the morning. I’ve tried for years to change this habit, especially when I’ve had to work regular 8-5 p.m. full-time jobs that required me to get up early AND be to work on time (what torture!). Living with RA, however, has made early mornings, or just mornings in general, even more difficult for me to deal with–especially when trying to get to work on time every day.
As I sit here writing this at 5:30 on a Sunday evening, I’m already feeling anxious about having to get up at 6:00 a.m. (well, that’s the goal) tomorrow in order to get to work by 7:25. The thought makes me feel stressed and depressed and annoyed because I know what will most likely happen tomorrow morning when the alarm on my phone starts to sound, in that grating, irritating, cruel ding-ding-ding it does. I’ll groggily wake up with a headache and painful, stiff joints, and I’ll hit “Snooze” and sort of fall back asleep. DING-DING-DING! Groaning, I’ll grope for my phone and hit “Snooze” again. I’m awake, yet I feel frozen and immobile like a tightly-wrapped mummy, unable to move much less bounce out of bed ready to start the day.
When I do manage to drag myself out of bed, I’m usually met with a bolt of pain shooting through my right foot and ankle as soon as my feet hit the floor. Actually both feet are usually sore, even if I’m not flaring, and my whole body feels creaky and stiff. The first thought that often runs through my mind is, I want to go back to bed.
But I can’t go back to bed; I’ve already delayed getting up for too long. And so the bad procrastination cycle begins–staying in bed too long, taking too long to “warm up,” taking too long to get ready for the day, stressing out about being late, running around the house like a maniac making a hasty lunch and looking for my keys and who knows what else.
“Warming up” each morning after getting out of bed is an important necessity for me. And, it’s often something I forget about and forget to allow time for, nearly every day. You’d think that after substitute teaching for the last three months I would know to leave enough time in the morning to ease my joints and body into moving better. But I hardly ever do this, so I end up having to rush around the latter part of my morning like a crazed woman, which causes much stress and anxiety and all-around WORSE health. It’s a terrible habit and I haven’t yet figured out how to change it for good.
Once I do arrive at work, after screeching into the parking lot and running through the front doors looking like an absolutely frazzled mess, I then often get hit with guilt and anxiety about being late in front of my coworkers. Don’t see me, don’t see me, I silently pray, as I scurry down the hallway trying to get to the classroom–especially without a particularly judgmental coworker spotting me and shooting an icy glare in my direction or even making a reproachful comment. I’m often tempted to just stop in my tracks and look her full in the face and say, “Listen, I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is a VERY PAINFUL chronic auto-immune DISEASE. I have a really hard time with mornings and this is a big reason why. BACK OFF.” But, ah, I always sheepishly smile, feeling guilty and awful, and duck into the room to prepare for an exhausting day spent with 21 kindergarteners. And hey, I’m not always late. I do push myself hard and actually get to work on time.
So what can I do about this? Not working jobs that start early is one option (and one that I prefer), however most full-time jobs begin early in the morning. I have always been drawn to jobs that have more flexible schedules, which is really helpful when having RA, due to painful mornings, numerous medical appointments, and unexpected flare-ups, and any other weird things that happen from living with RA. After many years of working standard office jobs, I can attest to the observation that living with RA does not work well in a “normal” 8-5 p.m. work environment. Employers don’t exactly like you arriving a little late most days, or having to take time off for doctor appointments, or calling in sick when you’re flaring and can’t walk or use your hands.
Accepting that most jobs begin around 8 a.m. and trying hard to leave enough time in the morning to get ready for work is another option, of course. However I try, I really do. Should I change my clocks and try to trick myself into getting up earlier? Or just keep practicing? Go to bed at 8:00 p.m. every night? Although, I’ve noticed that no matter how much sleep I get the night before, I still usually wake up feeling crappy. Why is this, I wonder? Is it from the RA? Or am I getting poor quality of sleep? It’s something to bring up to my rheumatologist, I suppose.
In any case, I’ll emphasize it again–mornings really are a source of misery for me. I wish they weren’t. I wish I could leap out of bed each morning with energy, ready to tackle the day and be a productive person. If anybody has any good tips about how to make my mornings a little less miserable, I’d be happy hear them. Just make sure you call me after noon, please.