The Weight of Winter Clothes
Keeping warm is extremely important during the cold temperatures that winter brings because it makes those achy rheumatoid arthritis (RA) joints happier. Winter is my worst time of year. Even if I stay warm, I still get stiff and achy.
Some tips and gadgets to the rescue
I have some tips for keeping warm when the cold arrives, and the power often rests in the combination. I don’t just wear warm clothes, I layer them and wear a down blanket. I have a wonderful new gadget from my husband—a seat warmer that runs on rechargeable batteries. It’s meant for camping or going to outdoor events, but it works great strapped to my wheelchair and helps to keep me toastier when I have to go out.
All the layers
While I’m glad for the layers of down coats, scarf, and blanket over sweaters and so forth. I have to admit that it is literally a heavy burden to bear. All these layers that keep me warm also weigh me down. Although my bones stay warm, I get stiff from not being able to move well (or at all).
At times I feel claustrophobic and can’t wait to tear the layers off once I cross the threshold to the warm indoors. I so identify with the younger brother in the film A Christmas Story who can’t talk through the scarf wrapped around his head or put his arms down because of the layers of winter gear he has to wear outside. The poor little guy. I feel his pain!
The weight wears me down
Winter is not even half over and I long to ditch my sweater for a t-shirt. I want to feel air on my skin and not the weight of heavy clothes. As much as I need the warmth, I feel the binding of winter clothes weighs down my joints—my movements become more limited; I have to use more energy to do regular activities; and I get easily frustrated by the extra strain of the weight.
I already know that I don’t have the strength of an average person. It generally does take more effort for me to do the same thing, if I can even do it. So it’s hard to put up with adding on additional challenges to my daily life.
When I whined about this challenge to my husband, he encouraged me to share this experience with others. He felt that other people living with rheumatoid arthritis are also likely to feel frustrated with the weight of winter clothes. It really is a catch-22 because I need them as much as I dislike them. I cannot choose not to use them without suffering the consequences of frozen joints and flare-ups, but they also frustrate my activities during the cold months.
Still, it could be worse! We now have light-weight down coats that help to keep us warm and other materials that weigh less, but are more effective for fighting the cold. While I complain about the heft of all my layers, it really could be much worse. Technology has been my friend in this struggle.
I also now have a portable seat heater so that the layers can keep in more warmth as I take my daily commute. These developments are greatly beneficial for keeping my joints as happy as possible, without permanently moving south (still a possible option!).
Although I complain about the weight of my winter clothes, I am glad that I have them and that they work well at their job. But now, I’m going to take a break from this weight now that I’m indoors as I switch to that lighter t-shirt for a while!
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?