When my rheumatoid arthritis strikes, when I’m feeling especially bad—it helps me to focus on some of my favorite things. In fact, my worse days are when I need to seek out comfort or a special treat to pick up my spirits.
It’s not a rule, but often my worst days of the year occur in winter. In general I feel stiffer and more sore. But winter has also been the time of year when I’ve had my worst RA flare ups.
One of the earliest severe flares I remember happened the winter I was 10 years old. In a short period of time I went from an active, albeit sick child with RA, to not being able to get myself out of bed and to the bathroom in the morning. Soon, I couldn’t walk at all and my parents were carrying me.
At school I used a borrowed wheelchair and friends pushed me between classrooms. As though loss of mobility wasn’t enough, I was also in a great deal of pain and remember waking in the middle of the night in my discomfort. I have a sharp memory of trying to keep my pain contained, trying not to moan or cry.
The doctor recommended a deep cortisone shot, which proved to be miraculous. He used an x-ray machine to help determine the best placing in my right hip. Although it took a little time, I relearned how to walk and recovered much of my lost abilities. But the experience made a lasting impression on the harm of a flare up and how quickly I could lose health and strength.
One of the lessons I learned is that I need to appreciate the small things and take pleasure every way I can in life. Too much of the time I could be distracted with my RA and not feeling well. It could get too easy to forget all the beautiful daily experiences or special treats I can enjoy.
So I’ve made a list of some of my favorite things. I’ll update it, add to it, but it’s great to have a place to turn when I need reminding of some of the joys in life.
- Café au lait—On a cold morning before I go into the office, I love stopping for my favorite coffee drink. It warms me up and gives me a little boost.
- Chocolate—Sometimes I just need some chocolate. Maybe it’s a single piece or a huge piece of cake, but chocolate is a cure. It is sweetly delicious and a marvelous invention.
- Getting fresh air—Going out to the park or a walk in my neighborhood is a great way to get a little perspective. I like being out in the fresh air for a bit, seeing other people and observing life outside myself.
- Reading a good book—When I was a child I discovered that reading was an escape from my RA. When inside a good book, I forgot about my pain and could be free of physical limits. Books are still a great escape for peaking into different lives, going on adventures or learning something new.
- My husband’s smile—It may seem simple, but I truly get a kick out of his smile and laugh. Even when I’m feeling terrible, seeing him smile will brighten my day.
This is just a sampling of from my list—I have favorite pieces of uplifting music and films, people and activities, art museums and more. But it never gets old to dwell on my favorite things and add new ideas.
What gets you through bad RA days and keeps you going? What pearls can you share for coping with RA while enjoying the beauty in life?