This is Courage

This is courage:

  1. You get out of bed in the morning even though moving hurts like a you-know-what. You know that your joint pain may be with you for the rest of the day, but you grit your teeth and get on with it.
  2. You fill the coffee carafe with water and pour it into the coffeemaker with hands that feel like someone’s been whacking them with dried bamboo rods all night.
  3. You must use both hands to lift your coffee cup to your lips.
  4. You take your morning shower even though just making it to the bathroom used up all your energy. You wonder where you’ll find more.
  5. You drive your manual transmission car to work in heavy traffic with your right shoulder and left foot flaring. It’s absolutely agonizing, but there isn’t any choice. You must make a living. Somehow, you don’t crash.
  6. You work full time. It involves heavy keyboarding, walking, and cheerfully interacting with others in a frigid air-conditioned office, which sometimes prods a mild flare into a severe one. You don’t have time while you’re at work “to be mindful,” practice tai chi, go to physical therapy, get acupuncture, or exercise, and your doctor, fearful of the DEA, won’t prescribe opioids for your pain anymore. (You never took them at work anyway.) Cognitive behavior therapy is all you have left. “I can do this … I must do this … I can do this … I must do this …” is your desperate, silent mantra.
  7. You drive your manual-transmission car to the grocery store after work. You shop. You’re still flaring badly. There are no short lines.
  8. You carry the groceries into your house, and still flaring, put them all away.
  9. You cook a meal, your joints screaming at you, and wish you felt like eating it.
  10. You clean up the kitchen afterward … flaring.
  11. You take a long, hot bath, hoping the heat will soothe the pain. It does, a little, temporarily.
  12. You go to bed, try to sleep, but finally settle for just resting … still flaring … and aware that before too long, you’ll have to get up and start the whole process over again.

This was once a typical day for me. It may be your typical day, or not. Yours might be very different, except for doing everything—everything—while you cope with sometimes awful joint pain. Maybe you’re a single person. Maybe you have a partner, or a family. Maybe they help you, maybe they don’t.

Whatever your situation, I really, really want you to recognize that you’re incredibly strong and incredibly courageous. Living with rheumatoid disease is hard. The pain, fatigue, and malaise it causes are real and affect every moment of your life.

And don’t beat yourself up when you need to rest, to heal, or to cry. There’s no weakness in that. It’s tough to be courageous when you’re exhausted. You’re not being weak when you take time to care of yourself. You’re making sure you have the energy you need to be strong. And crying is human. It’s our way of releasing serious stress so we can take on more.

You’re living with rheumatoid disease. You are courage personified.

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