There are times when I feel on top of the world: capable, effective, useful, powerful. In these moments, the future feels full of possibility and I feel able to turn those possibilities into reality. It’s a wonderful feeling, almost like I’m Superman. I love my superhero days.
My weakness? A traitorous immune system
However, you’ve already read the title of this article and you are reading a site for rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease (RA/RD), so we all know where this is going. Every superhero has his/her weakness, and for this Superwoman, my weakness is a traitorous immune system coupled with a fierce desire to ignore my limitations. RA/RD is my kryptonite.
I’ve had a very busy spring. I work full time, I have two young kids, I’m on the board of a non-profit organization, I’m on our school district’s parent advisory board, and I’ve been on a campaign team for a friend running for the board of education. The past several months have been packed with meetings, conference calls, canvassing, public events, a benefit concert I organized, and all those frenzied early mornings to get the kids and myself out the door to school and work and the hurried evenings of getting the kids fed, bathed, and read to before I pass out myself.
Just reading that feels exhausting, but the reason that I do it is because I love to collaborate with others to try to create needed change. I get a high from putting my head together with others to come up with ideas for increasing awareness and implementing changes for kids in our community. When I am a part of these types of teams, I do indeed feel like Superwoman: I feel a deep sense of purpose and capability; I feel powerful.
It’s that feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment that leads me to over do it time and time again. While this spring has been full of invigorating connection with others and wonderful mini-victories, it has also been full of sickness and joint pain. I’ve persisted because the campaign is time-limited, and win or lose, one of my obligations will soon evaporate. So rather than listen to my body, I’ve kept trying to push myself to the Election Day finish line. Yet that RA/RD kryptonite keeps coming out to remind me that I am human, not a superhero, and that I am a vulnerable human at that.
RA kryptonite works in many ways. It makes me feel heavy with a deep, persistent fatigue. It makes me feel weak with the effort required to hold a toothbrush, a cup of coffee, a purse, or even the weight of my own body, as that effort feels enormous when one’s body is riddled with pain. RA kryptonite makes me feel slow as I walk at half pace, take stairs one at a time, and stop for breaks between tasks and naps between outings. I would say that RA kryptonite brings me to my knees, except that would be far too achy; rather, RA kryptonite brings me to my back.
While I hate kryptonite, I must stop denying its existence in those moments that I revel in being Superwoman. When asked to take on another endeavor, I need to stop and say to myself, “Yes, I really want to be a part of that, and yes, I have a chronic condition that is going to flare up if I overdo it.” Sometimes the equation is yes + yes = no. While the temptation to be a superhero is very strong, so are the powers of my own personal Krypton: RA/RD. While flying sky high as Superwoman feels wonderful, being rendered useless by RA kryptonite always seems to be the price I pay when I wear myself out. It seems that living a human life on Earth is the healthiest compromise.
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