A young detective sits next to an older, jaded detective with a cigarette.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Fun-sucker, Professional Ruiner of Things

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been stopping me at every turn. Like a hockey goalie who drank too much coffee, this stupid illness seems to be everywhere I want to go, and I’m fed up!

Things that I didn’t even think rheumatoid arthritis had anything to do with are somehow being affected and it’s making it hard to keep my trademark sunny disposition in high gear. Yay?

My RA is set in its ways

Thirty years of RA is nothing to scoff at, certainly. My illness is like one of those old, jaded, grumpy police officers on TV that are always partnered with the young, by-the-book, do-gooder rookie. Detective McGrumpers has seen it all and more, and there’s nothing that can shock him any longer. Even really gross stuff.

My RA is set in its ways and is not going to be moved, so don’t even try to do anything new or exciting because it won’t make a difference.

But I do try. I’m like the young rookie detective who “just wants to make a difference” in this crazy, upside-down, world because, once upon a time, a cop helped him when he was a kid. Uh oh *SPOILER ALERT* it was Detective McGrumpers who helped him as a kid all along! Everything works out and the old detective learns to love again and the rookie learns to be a little more flexible. Fade to black, credits roll... if only real life worked out as neatly as things did in Hollywood, eh?

RA has really weared me down lately

No, you see in reality, my rheumatoid arthritis - the grumpy old detective of autoimmune diseases - doesn’t ever seem to learn any lessons or care what the rookie says or does. In fact, if those shows and movies were more like RA and real life, the rookie would say everything sucks, take up smoking, and order a scotch neat for lunch by the end of episode 1.

That’s what RA does: it wears you down. And lately, it seems like it has been there to mess things up at every turn. Case in point – my recent choice to try something new.

Deciding to try a new hobby

Since 2020 was a dumpster on fire full of dumpsters on fire, when 2021 came along, I thought I’d try a new hobby, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. It wasn’t anything crazy, not like gymnastics or crocheting or anything. It was something simple – archery.

I know what you’re going to say, “But Dan, you aren’t in The Hunger Games. Why would you want to do that?” Well, archery combines my love of new things, shooting stuff at a bullseye, and gadgets. Yeah, all things I like to experience, especially that last one. Oh does archery have no end of gadgets!

They got gadgets for everything in archery, literally every part of the body they have a gadget for. By the time you are ready to shoot an arrow, you can have so many things on your body that you’ll look like a pirate in the middle of winter with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Getting archery gear and doing research

So, I used a gift certificate I got for Christmas to get a beginner setup that I could use in my backyard. I am fortunate I have enough space here at my house. Otherwise, there would be a very confused bunch of 8-year-old soccer players at the local town field.

I couldn’t wait to start and thank God for Amazon Prime! Just a mere 48 hours later, I was geared up, kitted out, strapped in, and loaded for bear. I followed all the YouTube training videos and was finally ready to shoot my first arrow at a target I set up in my yard.

My RA makes an appearance

I pulled the bow back (which is tougher than you think), and suddenly, as I held it, my hand spasmed and I let fly before I was set! Oh, it was glorious. The way it flew - the string that is - right off the track. I derailed the bow on my first shot thanks to my RA! I spent the next two hours watching videos on how to restring a compound bow.

Putting on a wrist brace

Finally restrung, undeterred, I was ready to try again. This time I wasn’t taking any chances and I put on a wrist brace and actually attempted to line up the shot with the sight. The thing is, every time I tried to line it up, it looked wrong. Just way off target.

And I immediately thought that the disaster of my first interrupted shot had ruined my new bow for good because it wouldn’t be the first time my RA destroyed something inadvertently. Or advertently. I checked, though, and everything looked right.

Using my bad eye impaired by RA medication

I turned to YouTube once more and I discovered that when you shoot, you are supposed to use only the eye closest to the bowstring. My right eye. My bad eye. The eye that RA medication had overloaded with fluid and forced the doctors to permanently burn away 15 percent of my retina. Yup, that was the eye with which I had to look at, sight in, and shoot the target with. Rheumatoid arthritis had, again, for lack of a better phrase, pissed right in my corn flakes.

I didn’t want to give up, though, because we don’t give in to our illnesses, right? (I saw that on a mug.) So, I came up with a way to shoot using both eyes, even if it was less accurate. It worked just decent, and I went to sleep, disappointed.

Intense pain in my shoulder after

The next morning, I woke up and the first thing I realized was, "Wow, does my shoulder hurt!" I wonder why...oh, wait. That’s the shoulder on the arm that I hold the bow out in front of me with. Wonderful! An RA trifecta! Three reasons why I was not going to be able to do this thing that I’ve always wanted to try. Yeah, the fun never stops here folks.

I'm going to keep trying

I’ll probably keep trying, but this is a good example of how RA affects life. Trying to pick up an activity that any healthy person could do with ease, for those of us with rheumatoid arthritis, is a knock-down, drag-out, total-warfare battle with our own bodies.

Healthy people take for granted that they can simply pick up and do a thing, anything, without their own self screeching to a halt. RA patients don’t have that luxury. Even so, with the odds never in my favor, I’m going to keep trying. Trying until I can’t. Talk soon.

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