The Joint Protest
In response to current events, I recently attended a rally to promote peace and justice. This summer has been filled with horrific actions, and I’ve felt powerless not knowing how to respond. Therefore, when I heard about the rally that was being held in my community, I was eager to attend and join my voice with those of other individuals who are also seeking positive change in our society.
My father, who is 74 years old, planned on attending the rally with me. However, the day of the event he let me know that his ankle, which has begun giving him problems over the past few years, was painful that day, and that he didn’t think he could stand on it for the hour-long rally. As I have rheumatoid arthritis, I can certainly relate to the need to heed our bodies’ calls for rest and care. I reflected on how glad I was to be having a “good day.” My disease activity can be as fickle as the summer weather, with a thunderstorm always brewing amidst the sunshine. However, on that day my RA symptoms were mild enough for me to continue with my planned activities for the day without any adjustments. Living with rheumatoid arthritis means I don’t take my body’s abilities for granted, and I felt grateful that my joints weren’t going to prevent me from participating in the event.
There was a big crowd at the rally, in spite of the hot midday sun, and I was lucky to snag a coveted spot in the shade. As the rally progressed, attendees quickly realized the megaphones utilized by those speaking were not powerful enough for us to hear the speeches, so we all moved closer to the center of the action. I became locked into the crowd and, unfortunately, as the event went on my knee started locking up as well. I tried shifting my weight as much as possible, and repeatedly bent and straightened it. This caused it to pop, which would temporarily relieve some of the stiffness. However, after a few moments the stiffness would return in full force, and I began to worry that my knee might go out on me.
Sometimes my ego can be as powerful as my disease activity. Although I could feel my knee swelling on me in the sweltering heat, I worried that leaving the crowd in search of a seat would be misinterpreted as a lack of interest or commitment to the event. Rheumatoid arthritis is an invisible disability, and I look like a healthy woman in my thirties. Listening to my ego instead of to my knee, I stayed until the end of the event. While I was protesting the violence our society so often resorts to in response to conflict, my knee was protesting having to stand in one spot for so long, without any room to pace or move. I heeded my community’s call to action, but ignored the call from my body.
As often happens with RA, my knee steadily felt worse even as I rested it later. It continues to amaze me how standing and even sitting can be so hard on the body. It makes sense that an activity like jogging, in which the joints are absorbing repeated impact, might cause an increase in disease activity. However, it just doesn’t seem rationale that standing or sitting in one place should cause so much discomfort. Yet, whether or not it makes sense to me, it does cause pain and discomfort. It’s been over a week since the event, and still my knee is swollen, stiff, and painful. In spite of having been diagnosed almost 16 years ago, I’m still learning my limitations and chiding myself when I exceed them. While I attended the rally as a way of saying that I wouldn’t stand for injustice, it turns out I shouldn’t have been standing at all.
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