RA, Party Crasher

Last updated: June 2020

Recently I had a big meeting at work, with a presentation to give to the higher-ups in our school district. I prepared my data, reviewed points I anticipated questions on, and even got a haircut just to look a little snazzier.

On the day of the presentation, I selected a nice outfit, went over my presentation once more, arrived at the meeting several minutes early, and was feeling thoroughly prepared. However, as a person with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that can be very erratic and unpredictable, I always face the possibility of an unwanted guest.

Unpredictable symptoms of pain and stiffness

When I arrived at the meeting, I was feeling fine. However, as more and more people entered the increasingly crowded room, I felt a jolt of pain shoot through my hip, which then proceeded to lock up. Fortunately, I was seated, the meeting had not yet started, and I wasn’t in mid-sentence when it happened (there have been similar moments when I couldn’t finish my sentence).

My brain was focused on RA pain symptoms

I tried to look busy on my laptop to avoid any pre-meeting chats with my neighbors and took a few slow, hopefully subtle, deep breaths. After a minute or so my hip released but continued to hurt. I no longer felt prepared for my presentation, because 80% of my brain’s energy was focused on the pain.

Did anyone notice?

Fortunately, the room was so crowded that individuals not seated near the front of the room presented their data from their seats, rather than being required to stand at the front, so I avoided having to limp to the front of the group. I made it through the meeting and my presentation, but it felt like much more of a struggle than a triumph.

I doubt that anyone else noticed, but that RA pain dissolved my confidence and focus and required so much more effort on my part to get through the event.

Unpredictable symptoms change everything

It’s moments like this one that make me feel like RA is a party crasher. It can derail the best-laid plans in just a few minutes. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to cancel what I’d spent days or weeks planning because an RA flare showed up unexpectedly.

RA pain does not care about plans

When the pain is at an intense level, it doesn’t matter how much effort I’ve put into my plans, because I can’t summon the effort to carry them out. It can eclipse all else, leaving me only able to take care of my body; anything additional is too much. Like a bride who has spent months selecting dresses, flowers, music, menu selections, and a guest list, those details fade to the background if there’s a drunk, loud, uninvited guest dancing on the table.

Hoping to curb my RA symptoms

Fortunately, “security” continues to be improved with more and more treatments available to tackle RA. Yet, while these provide me with a significant decrease in my symptoms, I’m still hoping for a cure, that ultimate “bouncer” who would be able to keep RA on the sidewalk no matter how many times it tries to gain entrance to the event.

Until that day comes, I know there will continue to be moments when RA pops up unexpectedly, leaving me scrambling to adjust to its unwelcome presence.

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