What to Do when You Feel Good
I know. That headline sounds nuts. Who needs to know what to do when she feels good? What can’t you do when you feel good? When you have rheumatoid disease, isn’t feeling good the whole point?
Well, yes, to a degree. When you live with the daily challenges RD imposes—joint stiffness and pain, fatigue, malaise, brain fog—feeling physically good is a dream that seems like it will never come true. The mental and emotional toll of these physical symptoms is often equally as difficult. Having that toll lifted … Well. In your dreams.
How a good day starts
Getting a good night's rest
But then, one day out of the blue, it happens. You get up in the morning having slept all night. That alone is huge. It feels like you’ve had a whole lifetime of nights during which you tossed, turned, stared at the ceiling, contemplated your pain in intimate detail, and wished for morning to just hurry up, already. Yet here you are: awake at 6 a.m. after a full night of soft, restful, memory-free, rejuvenating, delicious sleep.
Minimal pain and no brain fog
When you get up, you do it without hissing through your teeth as the first knifing joint pain of the day occurs. There are no knives. Every one of your joints moves as if recently cleaned to gleaming and oiled liberally. As you walk to the kitchen (not limp, shuffle, or stump, like usual), you notice that your mind is as clean and clear as a late spring sky. There’s no mist. No dampening fog. A smile twitches the corners of your mouth.
No nausea and a normal body temperature
As you drink your coffee, you notice that along with the absence of stiffness and pain, there’s no dull nausea lurking in the corners, waiting to bog you down. Your body temperature—you can tell—is a normal 98.6, not 99.5 or 100.2. How … utterly … delightful!
What stops us embracing a "good" day
Worried about impending pain
And here’s where you hit the first speed bump. You’re feeling great, but instead of reacting like someone who doesn’t have RD and joyfully dancing out the door to meet the day, you stay where you are. You can’t quite believe it, after all. You just know the pain is out there waiting to trip you up. The malaise and brain fog, who often travel in tandem, are just around the corner with nefarious plans to bog you down, make you feel sickly and slow just when you need to be your sharpest. And the fatigue—you just know it’ll hit the moment you get busy, taking the wind out of your sails.
Might as well pipe down, right? What’s the use? You have RD. You might be feeling good right now, but give it time. Curling up like a hedgehog might be safer, after all.
We refuse our "good" day
We all have moments like this. Instead of celebrating a “good” day, we hunker down. Instead of taking the day one moment at a time—living in the present—we examine it for flaws, reinforcing our defenses against the return of misery. Instead of enjoying our “good” day, we refuse it.
How to take advantage of the good days
So here I finally get back to my headline: What to do when you feel good.
First, try mindfulness trick No. 1: Live in the present. The past is totally unchangeable. The future hasn’t happened yet, and you have little control over it. What you have control over is right now.
So, pay attention to it. Focus on Right Now. Enjoy feeling well. Enjoy how easily you’re moving. Take pleasure in your unexpected energy. Don’t wait for it to fade or for the pain to start again. Live in the moment and be grateful for its gifts.
Here’s something I finally figured out, too: Mindfulness Trick No. 1 is the only one you’ll ever need. It’ll allow you to fly on the good days and live gently and without fear or guilt on the bad ones. Living in the present moment will make knowing what to do, no matter how you feel physically, intuitive. Does this sound New Age-y? Yep. But close to 30 years of practice have made me a believer.
Will you give it a try? Let me know how it goes!
Did you have difficulty receiving a RA diagnosis?