Person in flare with autumn leaves blowing and falling around them.

Turn. Turn. Turn.

The seasons come and the seasons go, that’s pretty much as inevitable as reality show slap fights and people clamoring for the new iPhone. Unfortunately, what also comes with that, every single year, is the unavoidable “change of season RA flare.” That time is quickly approaching here again in New York and waiting to see how bad it will actually be is no more fun than having to actually watch the aforementioned slap fights.

Anticipating the seasonal RA flare up

This topic has, no doubt, been covered countless times by writers with RA, up to and including myself. It doesn’t really get any easier, though, as time goes on. Just because you know something is coming, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I mean, you know when you have to go to the DMV, but you still would rather eat glass and try to throw up a light bulb than sit there and watch idiots argue with civil servants. It’s the same for arthritis, especially with the extreme humidity we have been facing here.

Every day we have a late afternoon storm shower, and every day the wet soup thickens to a béchamel consistency (Google it). I’m not even going to mention the mosquitoes. Fine, I will mention them – it’s like the Philippines around here. Last week, I saw several of the bloodsuckers carry off a small child. Presumably to be their new king. So, as you can see, there’s already so much to deal with at the end of summer, the impending rheumatoid arthritis issues are being piled on top of a pile already overflowing with annoying.

Why do seasonal RA flare ups happen?

Why does it happen? Well, anyone with RA can tell you that extreme weather changes like the seasons cause joints to go bonkers. While I still maintain that RA patients are the most ingeniously adaptable people on Earth, apparently no one told our bodies that. We take time to acclimate to any environmental changes, and that includes going from outside with no AC, to inside with AC – something required as of late. I hate having to use air conditioning because it dries everything out and I wake up with knees frozen solid and eyes dry enough to stay stuck closed. Every night, Winter Is Coming, and I need the Mother of Dragons to unfreeze my joints. This is what happens when the seasons change, just on a grander scale. Even healthy bodies take time to acclimate, but for those with autoimmune illness, it’s a whole different ballgame.

The dreaded seasonal cold

It’s not just RA that we must deal with, there’s the obligatory change of season cold that comes every single year, without fail. I could wrap myself in one of those Outbreak suits, drink only virginal water melted from a primordial Greenland glacier and breathe oxygen from a tank filled by NASA, and somehow I’d still get that damn cold.

Colds are very draining

I dread it every year, not only because colds suck, but also because I’m very, very, bad at being sick. I know, it sounds like a football player who is bad at being an announcer – someone who is chronically ill being chronically bad at being sick – but it’s true. I complain, I am grumpy, and I just want it to be over. I email my doctors too much, I try to get antibiotics even if I don’t need them, and I use it as an excuse to play hookey from all my responsibilities. If there’s any nausea added in, well, then, forget it, you might as well just nail my door shut and put a “don’t open till X-mas” sticker on the handle.

Seasonal changes into autumn

It isn’t all bad, though. I know that on the other side of the impending nightmare is my favorite season – autumn. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and I can sleep with the windows open. (Great for me, bad for the neighbors and the bleach they have to pour into their eyes.) I just have to get past that late September, early October annual malady.

Not looking forward to winter

Fall is something I look forward to every year, but, of course, it also has a downside, like all things in life. This one is called winter. When that particular season rears its ugly head I can never get warm. I could cover myself in oil and set myself alight like an extra in a movie car crash, and I’d still need a sweatshirt. It’s uncanny. Then there’s the heater – if I set it even one-half degree too high, then I’m sweating like a high schooler during a prom-posal. This year I’m getting one with a remote control, I swear. I’m tired of getting up to set it.

Seasonal changes: a metaphor for life with RA

I realized recently that the changing of the seasons is a metaphor for life with RA in general. Most of us have seasons we like and seasons we hate – for me its bad, good, bad, good – summer, autumn, winter, spring, and that’s how life works with an autoimmune illness. Ups and downs on the scale of Mt. Everest and the Marianas Trench. It’s how we face every day, every minute, every hour. I know that’s how life works in general, but the highs and lows are much more pronounced when you live with chronic illness.

With all the things us RA patients have to deal with, you’d think that worrying about the change of season would be low on the list. Well, it isn’t: it’s a four-times yearly ritual that we all go through. As I said, though, RA patients are imminently adaptable, and we survive, we don’t ever fall off, and we spring to action like a winter storm. And, err, summer something. (Sorry, couldn’t fit that last one in.) Talk soon.

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