Pushing limits when having RA

Why Do I Keep Doing That??

When was the last time you pushed yourself too far and suffered the consequences of extra pain, stiffness and disability?

My arms and legs screamed in pain. I felt the strain as I scaled the wall. I felt the pins jabbing into my joints as the discomfort radiated from them. At that moment I should have let go and signaled descent. But, I didn’t. I took a quick rest break and continued on. I loosened my grip on the holds and powered through to the top of the wall. Upon my return to stable ground, I collapsed spread eagle on the ground and kicked myself metaphorically in the rear “WHY DID YOU JUST DO THAT??”

I probably put myself down for the next couple of days. I definitely ended my rock-climbing session for the day but I didn’t listen to my body. I pushed myself past my current limits.

Was it worth it?

Was two minutes pursuing my favorite sport worth two days of pain, stiffness and possible long-term implications? No probably not. But, at the time, yes it was.

I used to be a very good climber and I loved the sport. I felt accomplished and powerful but ever since my Rheumatoid Arthritis flared up I watched that strength fade away.

I’ve only lived with this diagnosis for eight years. I was diagnosed at the age of 20. The memory of my more active, less painful self is still engrained heavily on my brain so, does this have some bearing on why I continue to push myself past my limits?

What was I trying to prove?

It’s not just about rock-climbing though. I also had these moments with other activities like carrying boxes. I recently sent some boxes in the mail. I carried the boxes to my car and then an employee got them from the car (brownie points for at least asking for some help??). Eight years ago, I could easily carry 20, 30, 40 pounds. Now, I am lucky if I can hold my 10-pound dog. I knew I was going to pay for carrying those boxes but I did it anyways. What was I trying to prove?

What about trying to do all my house chores in the same day? Or, carrying all the grocery bags in one trip? Climbing the stairs multiple times a day then taking my dog for a long walk?

When was the last time you pushed yourself too far, knowing full well while you were doing it? Pretty recently?

What am I trying to prove?

That regardless of my condition I am still the same person I was eight years ago? At what cost? I know I am not. I have a condition that greatly affects my physical ability. It must be psychological but why. I am not embarrassed about my RA (at least, not anymore) so why do I try so hard to show maintain my physicality? Will I eventually grow out of it or will I spend my entire life pushing myself too far because I’m that kind of person. Why can’t I ask for help? Though, I have gotten way better at this. Most people would understand and willingly lend a hand. Do I still push myself because I’m young? Will I eventually listen to my body and realize I need to accommodate my new normal?

Why do I keep doing that??

Let me know in the comments if you still push yourself past your limits. Why? And, if you have any insights into the questions I’m asking please, let me know your thoughts!!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (32)
  • susanleszczak
    6 months ago

    I feel that if I don’t push myself especially on a nice day my life is going by with out me. Thank you for the article It helps psychologically knowing others understand

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing on my article, Susanlezczak!! I feel the same way!! I still want to do everything I enjoy or I don’t think I could manage this disease.

    Please stop by if/when you ever need to chat! ~Monica

  • DeGee
    9 months ago

    I think that I push because I’m still rebelling against this. I keep thinking I should still be able to pick things up.
    We just finished having a room painted. The whole time, I kept thinking about how I used to be able to move that furniture and all those things by myself.
    My kids and my husband just keep asking me why I don’t just ask for help.
    Because, I’m used to being the one doing the helping.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Same!! It’s hard to come to terms with our new reality but it sounds like you have a great support system. I really hope you feel better soon! ~Monica (Thank you so much for sharing on my article!!)

  • SGettman
    9 months ago

    I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who does this! In the winter I do this by trying to ski like I did prior to this horrible disease. I can do less and less every season but my brain always says yes you can while my body screams your a fool. During this time of year, I love to garden but pay the price for that as well. I did this just this last weekend and ended up missing the next day of work because of my joints screaming and the total exhaustion I felt. I just want to be the active, fun, always on the move person I once was 🙁

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey SGettman! Thank you so much for sharing on my article!! I’m glad I’m not the only who keeps rebelling against my body/RD.

    I actually got to a pretty good place where I capped myself while climbing (ie. I only climbed two climbs) or really with anything, like walking my dogs. I deliberately stayed within my limits but I felt so good I pushed myself a little and ended up going way over.

    I miss my old self but I am trying really hard to work with my body so I don’t feel these horrible horrible flares afterwards. ~Monica

  • arizonajul
    9 months ago

    I do the same thing! For me it is the joy of doing my favorite activities coupled with thinking that maybe this time I will stop right before it causing harm.
    I was also diagnosed just 8 months ago, so part of it is also habit. Maybe a bit of denial too?

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    I don’t know why I do that!! I always thinking ‘maybe this time will be different…’ It never is.

    But, I agree with you, I want to do the things I love. RA/D has taken so much from us already…Let us have our favorite pastimes or hobbies.

    Please reach out if you ever need to chat or have any questions. I’m glad you’ve received a diagnosis. I hope you feel better soon!

  • KarenG.
    9 months ago

    I always push myself beyond my limits….. I think in my mind “Oh, I can still do this!” but my body is like “Are you kidding?!” I’m just so used to working and moving and doing anything. I was diagnosed 24 years ago. I am now 52 years young…. Life shouldn’t be this painful….

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    I’m sorry you are in pain, KarenG but I am glad you’re fighting. It’s hard when our bodies fight back and sometimes win. I personally am really trying hard to work with my body but it’s hard because I don’t want limits!!

    Thanks for sharing on my article!! ~Monica

  • rockcandi
    9 months ago

    After I was newly rediagnosed with JRA I became a little obsessive about figuring out my limits and then not going anywhere close to them at least 75% of the time. I spent most of my life in a chair in my bedroom watching TV and only doing “small” things like getting my husbands clothes and towel ready for his after work shower, cooking for him, and keeping our bedroom clean. (We share a house with his parents, all finances split down the middle but for the first three years we both spent most of our at home time in our bedroom.) Oh, and I also worked the nursery at my church every Weds night with another woman but all of the kids were older babies and toddlers so there wasn’t a lot of holding them. (Sorry, this will be a long comment.) But then two years ago after the birth of our son (our first living child) when I was 34, I knew before he was born that I was going to push myself beyond my limits daily for him. And I was right. After I started pushing myself for him, my desire to be who I was before the JRA got so bad again kicked in. Now I not only push myself too far for him but I continue pushing and pushing trying to get that independent, always busy, strong woman back. I won’t get her back though no matter how hard I try but I think it’s like someone else said, I don’t want to lose this war to RD. I don’t want to miss out and especially don’t want my son to miss out just bc I may have a flare or a few more painful days. I’ll always be in pain. I’ll never have a pain free day in my life again so as long as I don’t push myself to the point that I can’t get out of bed and/or can’t take care of my and my sons daily needs I think it’s okay to fight against this disease (and the others I have). All of you keep fighting! Don’t disable yourself to the point of bed-bound and don’t allow yourself to give up and sit in a chair like I used to. In both of those situations RD would win. Even if you’re not as physically strong as you used to be you’re minds are still strong as ever. You can do this!!!

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey rockcandi!! I am so sorry that I didn’t reply sooner. Thank you so much for the lovely words and for sharing your story (you can never write too much!!)

    I agree with everything you’ve said. At the end of the day, if something is worth it, we will push ourselves and have no regrets. This is our only life and we have to decide what we love most. You are a fighter and you are winning! All the best, Monica

  • rockcandi
    8 months ago

    Thank you Monica! I feel the same about you. I definitely feel you are someone who gives strength and comfort to others with your words. I don’t believe RA/RD will ever take that ability away from you!

  • BANelson
    9 months ago

    I am 60 and was diagnosed just five years ago. Thank you for writing from your heart about your passion for climbing outweighing your inner voice cautioning you against it. I’ve made the same mistake–but not climbing. Working in my garden. Or trying to keep up with the grandkids. I’ve had to change so many, many things in my life, sometimes I just want to be my old self. More energy. Longer working hours. Longer days in the garden. Is it worth it? I say yes it is–every now and then. Why? Mostly for the satisfaction, the reward. There have been days when I have hurt worse when doing everything right–so I’ll tough out a few days of pain and stiffness in exchange for the self satisfaction. Unlike rock climbing, I can alter my activity–sit and weed instead of raking or pruning, and rest on the deck with an ice cold water. I can’t garden much between October and March, so I get 6 months away from gardening…and even before RA, that was five and a half months too long.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Thank you for the lovely and kind comment, BANelson!! I think you’re right – sometimes, the reward is just greater than the post symptoms. We love what we do and maybe it’s better that we experience occasionally without worrying about this condition?

    I know exactly what you mean — by the end of the winter I am itching to get back outdoors!! Winters are always too long! ~Monica

  • caramcgee
    9 months ago

    Wow, I can totally relate to this article. I’ve been running since the mid-90’s and just can’t seem to give it up. A few months prior to my diagnosis I completed 6 half marathons in 7 days. A few months after my diagnosis I completed 3 half marathons, 1 full marathon and a 5k over 5 days. Talk about paying the price. I think the reason I do it is partially denial. I just can’t seem to give in to the fact that things are different now.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    caramcgee, thank you so much for sharing!!! Those are great running achievements, even post-diagnosis. I completely agree about the denial and it definitely doesn’t help that in the moment it feels like we can achieve anything. Post-exercise though? A different story ~Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    9 months ago

    Last week I had a great time on vacation. Great until i put off MTX for 5 days. Yeah I have the same question why do I try stuff like that?

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Oh gosh!! I’ve done that for colds and stuff (I know I am supposed to but I definitely don’t want to!) Why do we think this time will be different??

  • kkharrod
    9 months ago

    I have been dealing with RA/RD for about 10 years. I am fortunate to have made it to my 40s before being diagnosed, and by then, my children were grown. Even though I recently had to quit teaching–my passion and callling in life–due to RD pain and debilitating fatigue, I still do not want to be an invalid. You know, that person who can’t seem to do anything for herself and calls on other people to do it for her or to spend money on paying someone to do it like I’m a primadonna rich girl or something. That’s just not me. So right now I am trying to fix my two flower beds in the back. It’s taken a month already for a task that would have taken one good Saturday to complete. Even just opening a bag of mulch and spreading it takes about 2 of my only 3 spoons on a good day. Since the Panhandle of Florida is in its rainy pattern, there are days I can’t do anything. So it takes forever, and my hands swell up of course, but I didn’t have to ask for help.
    As to rock climbing, a few years ago I went to Red Rock, Arizona, which has dry, warm weather. I definitely felt better there and was able to hike up the rock mountains. Maybe if you find the right place, you can at least do a version of what you used to do.
    For me, I had to give up water parks and swimming because cool or cold water triggers a horrible flare. After three bad experiences, I learned that I had to let it. At least I had memories with my family.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey kkharod!! Thank you so much for sharing on my article!! I love your determination. I still struggle to ask people for help but sometimes it’s important for us to do things on our own, no matter how long it takes!

    You mentioned rain is a trigger for you (me as well!) I thought you might enjoy these two articles: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/summer-in-the-humid-city/ and https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/swamp-monster/ (this one I recently wrote!)

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the Red Rocks hike! It’s a beautiful place and very calming.

    Thanks again!! ~Monica

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi, @kkharrod. Thank you for sharing your story with us! I’m sorry to hear you had to quit teaching because of RD. I’m sure you were a fantastic educator with a ton of passion for the job. We hear you. I think other community members can relate to this as well. Although it may take longer than it used to, you’ve still got the drive to garden and you’re still getting the job done! We also appreciate you sharing your support with other members going through this by talking about your experiencing with rock climbing. We’re thinking of you today! Take care. Warmly, Alesandra (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Tink14ever
    9 months ago

    I also love the outdoors and especially gardening. This year I was unable too to it for the first time. I am newly diagnosed and not on any medication yet. Hopefully next year I will have my garden! So I know how you feel. It’s hard to not to stop what you love to do…

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey Tink14ever!! Thanks so much for sharing!! I’m glad you liked my article. I agree, it’s definitely hard to stop what I love to do but I really am working on pacing myself because I don’t want to stop! Please reach out if you ever need support – new diagnoses are extremely overwhelming!! ~Monica

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    9 months ago

    Hey @tink14ever – thanks for sharing with us! Sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis, but I’m so glad you found our site. I hope it’s been helpful, supportive, and provides comfort for you as you learn more about RA. Let us know how you’re doing if you’d like to share! Best, Alesandra (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Libby
    9 months ago

    I was diagnosed at 64 and am 69 now. I still push myself trying to maintain the activity level of pre rd. I’ve always been an outdoors person and loving working in the yard and my garden,so I try to continue at before rd levels. Of course I pay for it but being the stubborn person I am, Continue to push. I think it’s a battle, and I don’t want to lose to this disease.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    I don’t want to lose either!! I spend a lot of time fighting my RD but I’m starting to realize that I if I continue to bang heads with this condition my body might pay the price. I really have to learn how to work with it instead of against it!

    Thanks for sharing on my article, Libby! ~Monica

  • Sneed
    10 months ago

    I’m in my seventh decade and I still push a bit too far with some regularity although I have learned to back off before going way too far. It seems to me it is a function of the mindset and attitude towards exertion developed in the pre RA days; it just doesn’t go away, it’s part of my makeup and the fact of RA being omnipresent does not just change that. It’s really who I am and a mere disease ain’t going to change that!

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hey Sneed! Thanks for sharing! I think it’s interesting that even so many years with this type of disease we still are still so habitual about our tasks. You would think we learn quickly but I think there is something in our brain that keeps fighting! ~Monica

  • Heartsong
    10 months ago

    After 30 years I still push my limits because without pushing them I wouldn’t know where my limits are.
    I would hate to look back at my life regretting what I might have done in favor of the flare I only might have had.
    Yep some days I find my limits, but I have my memories.

  • kkharrod
    9 months ago

    I like your response! Thanks! I’ll remember it.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thank you for sharing, Heartsong!! I like this perspective and it reminds me that I also don’t want to look back on my life and think I never participated because I was too afraid to spike my RA. Thank you so much for commenting on my article! All the best, Monica

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