The Soul Rain

I’m an odd duck. I like--no, I love --rain. Light rain, hard rain, soft rain, drenching rain. Sometimes I think I should have been a duck instead of a human, because in spite of my rheumatoid disease, when it’s raining I’d love nothing more than to be out playing in it, flapping my wings and wagging my tail with abandon and delight, spraying water everywhere.

But sometimes the rain isn’t physical. It isn’t wet, or deliciously cool, and it doesn’t tickle my cheeks or make playfully wide, stompable puddles. It’s more like a dreary downpour that just won’t stop, one that won’t allow the clouds to break up or the sun to peek through. The puddles this rain forms are chin-deep. It’s a soaking, cold greyness of the mind that can affect anyone, at any time, for any reason, and those of us with rheumatoid disease are very familiar with it.

It’s the soul rain. It’s hopelessness.

Yes, this is me, your faithful eternal optimist, writing this post. Because guess what? Even I get caught out in the soul rain without an umbrella once in awhile. Even I can feel hopeless.

There are plenty of reasons. Maybe I’m having a flare that I just can’t seem to shake, or maybe I’ve just had to stop doing something I really enjoy because it’s making my joints hurt, and that makes me sad and mad. Maybe I’ve had to ask friends--again--for a rain-check (appropriate, huh?) on that fun evening out we’d planned. Maybe no matter how many pairs or types of shoes I tried on today, not a single pair didn’t hurt my stupid RD feet; or maybe I woke up this morning feeling--again--like angry baboons had been pummeling my feet with rocks all night long.

Or maybe the miracle drugs I’ve been taking faithfully for my RD just aren’t working, and I’m tired of waiting for them to work because I’m tired of flares, tired of hurting, and just plain tired of being tired of having this crap disease in the first place.

The soul rain leaves my spirits drenched and shivering, crouching beneath its onslaught. The sky is dark and low and, from my point of view down here in the dank storm drain of my soul, the black, rain-heavy clouds seem endless. In spite of all my best efforts to jolly myself out of it, I feel sad and hopeless. There’s no cure for RD, the soul rain whispers darkly in my ear. No drug they can ever come up with is ever going to work. You’re going to be in uncontrollable pain, fatigued, stiff-as-a-board and sick for the rest of your life. Why fight it? Why keep getting up in the morning?

Because, if I’m honest, I know that the soul rain isn’t going to last forever, even if my RD is. And I know that even though I’m feeling fairly hopeless about the way my RD is making me feel right now, I will feel better, with or without drugs.

Besides, the drugs I’m taking just now may be failing me, but there are others I haven’t tried yet. Not only that, but there are scientists all over the world working right now to develop and test new drugs that just might turn out to be a real miracle cure one day--or at least, they may keep the disease so quiet that it might as well be considered “cured.”

I know all of this because I’ve had RD for a long time, and it tends to progress in peaks and valleys. Yes, it can be depressing. I need to allow myself to mourn that part of my health that took a powder all those years ago. I have a right to mourn, to grieve; a right to be low and grumbly and blue when the disease lets me down or forces me to let others down. The soul rain, when it comes, is relentless and it must be experienced.

But then, it must be faced.

Because the soul rain does actually let up, eventually. I know that many people need help from others--mental health professionals, friends, clergy, or doctors--to deal with it while they're waiting for the clouds to dissipate. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, when the rain is so relentless that you’re drowning, the smartest thing you can do is holler for a lifeguard.

But for me, the trick has always been to open my eyes and notice something sweet and whimsical and unexpected, like my little cat sticking her arm under the bathroom door in an attempt to get my attention in the morning, when I’m still mostly asleep, stiff as a clothes-rod, and growly with pain and discomfort. The grudging smile the sight of those little black toe-beans conjures on my face breaks up the cold, dark clouds a little. Later on, that first delicious taste of freshly brewed coffee pushes them further off, so that the sun can break through. Things start looking better--less glum and hopeless--after that.

We all have to deal with the soul rain no matter who we are. But it’s good to know that, like any other weather, it will change eventually.

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