Sorry, I Can’t Today, the Barometric Pressure’s Changing
It isn’t two minutes before my knees start aching. Standing in one place is too uncomfortable, so I start a casual stroll. That helps briefly, but within five minutes my hips begin to protest. I alternate standing with strolling, and ten minutes later my ankles begin hurting. I try to shift my weight from side to side while standing, and my shoulders begin to throb from the weight of my arms. When I cross them my shoulders are relieved, but then my elbows start aching. I try hooking my thumbs into my pockets, but my hands object.
Such is a morning of bus duty when a storm is brewing. I work at a public high school, and each morning I spend 45 minutes on bus duty, which basically means standing in one spot and greeting students. This should be easy, right? There are days when I joke about getting paid to say, “Good morning!” However, when the barometric pressure is changing, all bets are off. Suddenly, standing in one spot becomes an intense experience, leaving me desiring the treatments an athlete might seek post-marathon.
RA: unpredictable like the weather
Sometimes people who know I have arthritis will ask, “So can you tell when it’s going to rain?” That seems like such a quaint notion, that one’s body could serve as a simplified weather-predicting device. However, the actual experience feels nothing close to quaint. It’s not nearly as bad as a flare, but changing barometric pressure brings discomfort throughout my body, making me hyperaware of all of my movements. If an RA flare is the flu, these changing-weather days are like the bad head cold that stuffs up your nose, making you aware of each breath. When the weather is in flux, every movement requires a bit of care and concentration to keep the pain at a simmer.
Like the weather, Rheumatoid Arthritis is unpredictable. There are times when I’m sure I’ve overdone an activity and will pay for it the next day, yet upon waking find that I got a “get out of flare free” card. Other days I don’t give an activity a second thought, and I end up surprised at the pain I’m in the next day. And of course, there are all the aches, pains, and fatigue that can’t be connected to any specific event, other than the confusion running rampant in my immune system. While barometric pressure is at least a cause I can attribute my swelling and discomfort to, weather itself is as hard to predict as my disease activity. Sometimes a storm rolls in quickly, and I find it doesn’t affect me much at all. My dad will ask, “How are you feeling with this rain?” and I’ll respond honestly that I’m fine. With slower moving weather patterns or more drastic temperature changes, I can feel the weather in my bones a full day before the first drop of rain hits the ground. Therefore, a simple 10-day weather forecast isn’t going to give me a reliable snapshot of what my arthritis activity will look like for the week.
This is perhaps the most infuriating aspect of RA, the unpredictability. Intense pain, inflammation, and fatigue are hard to deal with regardless, but never knowing exactly when they’ll rear up makes it all the more difficult. When I used to take Methotrexate, I could predict that each Wednesday I wasn’t going to feel great, and I could therefore try to plan around the predictable side effects. While it was unpleasant to experience the side effects each week, I could at least arrange my schedule ahead of time to accommodate them. This is in stark contrast to RA itself, which I can never seem to figure out entirely. The longer I have it, the more aware I become of my flare-triggers, but there are so many aspects of Rheumatoid Arthritis that seem as fickle as the weather. Therefore, when my unpredictable disease can be impacted by the weather itself, the forecast for comfort can never be 100% likely.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?