Only In My Dreams
I never remember a time when walking was easy. Yes, I remember when it was easier, but never easy. Being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age two, I also remember limping or hurting or feeling unsteady on my feet. I remember walking the long halls of my elementary school close to the wall so that I could grab it if I lost my balance or take a break and lean if I grew too tired.
Walking in my dreams is easier
For the longest time, I haven’t walked in my dreams. I always feel like I am flying or floating. There is no effort except to steer. But recently, I had an amazing and fun dream: I was walking on the moon. The gravity was light and I could actually run in bounding steps.
When I touched the surface, my ankles didn’t scream with pain and my legs moved strongly and effortlessly. It was fantastic! (Richard claims some credit for this team due to his background working for NASA and sharing all his space stories!)
In my waking life, I fear falling and injury
I walk only a little in my waking life and it is a struggle. I have trouble with strength and balance. I fear falling and breaking a bone or otherwise injuring myself. Every step is filled with effort. I feel pain in my ankles each time I bear down with my full weight.
So, most of my day I spend using my motorized wheelchair. It is miraculous. Without it, I could not go anywhere or have the energy to get through my day. Still, I miss walking being easier and wish I could remember what running really felt like.
Benefits of water walking
I wonder if my moonwalking dream came from all the walking I have been doing in the pool over the last year. I started serious aquatic therapy last winter and one of the primary exercises was walking in the water.
I use pool noodles to help me stay afloat if I lose my footing, but otherwise, I am propelling my own self with my own bones and muscles. The water helps to support me, but also provides great resistance exercise. I don’t experience the constant ankle pain with every step and can go farther and faster than when I walk outside the pool. I love the exercise, but I also love the feeling.
Improved balance and strength
Since doing water walking more consistently, my regular walking has improved. I do feel I have better balance and my legs are stronger. But, of course, I always wish for more. I think the moon dream came from that aspiration. I could feel myself leaping along without pain, without fear of falling.
RA is always there - even in my dreams
For me, RA is always there in the background (or right up in my face!). It never takes a break, even in my imagination. I feel it in my dreams because I never dream I can do things that I cannot with my RA in real life. Of course, to me, moonwalking seems totally possible! It felt real — that I was there with my RA just having a jolly walkabout with reduced moon gravity. And when I dream of flying, of course that makes sense because that would not be deterred by my RA (just the reality of human bodies and physics).
Working to slow the damage of RA
It may forever be a dream. I don’t anticipate suddenly having healthy bones and regular strength, or suddenly being able to fly effortlessly through the sky. Even if all my bad joints were replaced, I’d still have all the soft tissue damage from my RA.
But I will keep working on my walking. I may never improve, but I will try to slow the decline down as much as possible. And when I am in the water (or dreaming of a visit to the moon), I will keep my legs moving with the rhythm of my walking.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?