Panic and Paranoia: Living with the Unexpected while Having RA

2020 has started rather chaotically. My body ricochets between feeling great and feeling terrible. My feelings and thoughts follow the same pattern. And, to make matters worse, the weather has been unexpectedly volatile down here in Florida. Again. I feel like I’ve written that sentence too many times, but here we are again.

As I talked about in a previous article, the unexpected weather changes really impact my RA and make me feel worse. Sore joints, aches, fatigue, malaise, the list goes on and on. And sometimes, just how 2020 has started, those symptoms still exist, chaotically, outside of weather changes. I can never pin down when exactly they will strike.

Managing the unexpected with rheumatoid arthritis

This is nothing new. RA has been like this ever since I was diagnosed; yet, for some reason, this particular period of chaos has been rather poignant. It’s caused me to think: life with RA is filled with surprises and the unexpected, but having RA also makes it more difficult to deal with the unexpected.

At least before I was sick, I could relatively handle the surprises and changes; now, however, I have to deal with those uncertainties while I’m sick and not feeling well at all. And this is one of those situations where I cannot concretely think of an exact instance or story to tell. It just is.

Panic when RA symptoms change

I can tell you, though, that as my life with RA has progressed, I recognize how much panic and paranoia seeps into my life exactly at a juncture with the unexpected.

If you’re not careful, you can begin to adopt a mindset where every new medical occurrence-- and if I'm being fully transparent, any occurrence-- is an indicator of something drastic: that new bump on my stomach, is that something I should be concerned about? I feel a little clammy, do I have a fever? Uh-oh, I just sneezed five times in a row, does this mean I have an infection? Do I need to go to the hospital?

Why do I resort to this thinking?

It makes complete sense—at least to me—why I resort to this kind of cyclical (and hypochondriac) thinking. Denying my condition and my RA pain for so long prolonged treatment and made me feel worse. In my mind, I begin thinking, “Well, better to be proactive and sure than to just ignore it.”

Reassuring myself that I know my body

The problem is that that mindset is incredibly draining and mentally exhausting, particularly with a chronic illness like RA and in a time in my life where so many things are up in the air. One of my goals for 2020 is to deconstruct that mindset by reassuring myself that I know my body and am aware of it, that if something is wrong, I will make it work out.

Continuing to adapt to the unexpected

I’m not trying to complain when I write this; that is not my intention. Rather, I’m just trying to communicate that it’s difficult to deal with uncertainty (even normally), and RA just exacerbates that. Just how it is so difficult to accept RA into my life, it is also difficult for me to accept change and the unexpected into my life.

I have done it before: I have conquered over trial and tribulation. I can do it again. I will continue to do it.


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