Unpredictable, That's What You Are
Who sang along with me to the tune of Nat King Cole’s "Unforgettable"? It’s hard not to sing along because otherwise, we might cry.
While you never get used to the pain and fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis, you do learn to cope - heating pads, cold packs, paraffin baths, pain medications, steroids, rheumatoid arthritis meds, accommodations at home and work, and you learn what to do.
RA is completely unpredictable
I think the unpredictability is the hardest part to cope with. I make plans with friends then have to cancel. I make appointments for a busy day at work with lots of visits out of the office and then have to cut back.
Despite scheduling a rest day after a vacation, I end up unpacking, doing laundry, and grocery shopping instead of resting.
When the day requires a mindset change
Why do I have to change things up? Because rheumatoid arthritis is completely unpredictable!
Three to four days of manageable gets exciting. Oh boy, I can do things! Let’s set up lunch dates, movies, and that dancing I’ve been putting off.
BAM! I wake up and realize that getting my legs out of the bed will require creativity and the inevitable groaning.
Reassessing what can be done
Wait a minute. . . I felt okay yesterday. Why do my legs hurt and when did they get so heavy? As I put my feet down and attempt to stand, my feet yell at me, "What do you think you are doing???" When the room tilts (oops, no, that’s me tilting), I realize that today requires another mindset change.
I sit back down on the bed and try not to pout, even though I really want to pout. I re-assess, yet again, and decide what can be done.
Can I take some acetaminophen and make it work? Do I lie back down and let work know I’ll be in later, maybe? Or, do I take the pain med, call off for the day, and return to bed?
As I assess, my bladder decides that I will at least make it to the bathroom. Frequently that trip makes my decision for me.
If I barely make it while holding on to the walls, then it’s a pain medicine day, no work day. Successful trips walking upright require acetaminophen. Utter fatigue requires a trip back to bed.
Pushing through is never an option. I learned early on in my disease process that pushing through only leads to more painful days off.
How I manage unpredictable symptoms
This unpredictability takes a huge toll on mental health, relationships, work, and overall health. How do I cope with this? I use a multi-faceted approach.
My faith is always my first choice and has allowed me to come to terms with the unpredictability of my disease and well as my life.
RheumatoidArthritis.net is my second choice. Reading the articles and hearing about others helps immensely. Knowing that I always have a place to come to provides great comfort. Close friends are my third choice. Mental health care is my fourth choice.
I would love to hear your ideas and choices as we navigate this road!
Mary Sophia Hawks - author and moderator
Check-in: As we start a new year, how are you feeling?