Juggling With Knives

Since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis I feel like I am perpetually juggling butcher knives. Most days my proverbial knives fly through the air all sharp and shiny and perfectly timed. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror as I juggle those knives with awe. I feel proud of myself and think, “Sherry, you are doing a fantastic job keeping your knives in the air.”

Other days a relatively insignificant event can knock one knife out of the synchronized fashion that it needs to keep all of the knives flying safely through the air. The gleaming knife flies out of formation causing all the other knives to break their flight as well. As the knives plummet towards the ground, they hit my arms and shoulders, my face and hands, carving and slicing me open. I feel stunned, raw and scared.

Juggling life with rheumatoid arthritis

That is how it can feel to juggle an autoimmune disease with your other life. Your other life is the life that continues to play out independent of your doctor’s appointments, physical therapy or the hour that you cried this morning before going to work. Everyone else’s lives (your children, your spouse, your friends) are still going on while you struggle and strain under the weight of your unceasing juggling act.

It isn't impossible, but it's extremely challenging to do

Juggling knives is really difficult but it’s not impossible. Thriving while under the thumb of a cruel and unpredictable disease is difficult but also not impossible. I’ve been known to drop my knives. It’s startling, painful and can set me back physically and emotionally.

Remember: you are resilient

But the truth is that most days I don’t drop my knives and I am willing to bet that you don’t either because you are strong beyond measure. You have learned how to live with a level of resilience that many others do not have and for that reason alone you can feel proud. We all press on each day and continue to be chronically (ill) awesome because this is the life that we have.

It's okay when life gets unbalanced

Know that if you drop your knives you will be okay. Wounds heal and so will you. Also know that you are allowed to take a step back and watch your knives fall to the ground, sparing yourself in the process.
If you do become collateral damage to your falling knives remember that small joys can become band-aids. I am referring to doable, attainable things like a gluten-free cupcake or escaping in an hour or two of Netflix. These small joy band-aids just may do the trick while they are on. I know, your gluten-free cupcake won’t fix anything, but it just may change your energy for a few minutes allowing you to get on with your day. When you are in an acute state of wreckage, that small shift will feel like enough.

Your reaction when things don't go right is important

This morning I dropped my knives, got cut in the process and almost metaphorically bled out. I could have stood there allowing myself to bleed to death but instead, I decided to try a small joy band-aid. What did I have to lose? I actually felt like screaming and swearing, denouncing my job, my friends, my rheumatologist and anything I have ever loved because I had had it. I was at capacity with trying to keep it together. That reaction would have been warranted but not helpful so I tried another tack and it actually worked.

I live in Florida so today’s small joy band-aid consisted of standing on the beach surrounded by tourists with sunburns, playing children and shorebirds just having a Wednesday. I took a handful of really deep breaths (I’m a yoga teacher) then treated myself to a cup of coffee. The dispiriting things that made me drop my knives in the first place had not changed but I had. I changed the energy of the morning which allowed me to come back to a bit of emotional balance and I’ll admit it…. small joy. It felt like such a relief to let go of my disappointment, anger, and fear even if only for the time it took to consume a cup of coffee.

You are not alone in juggling your life

Here’s the thing, I’m worth the effort and so are you. Your morning/afternoon/day is worth saving because they are the only ones we will ever have. Bit by bit you will get through all of these hard/amazing days/ever-changing days knowing that you are resilient, strong and not alone. There are more of us juggling out there than you could ever know. You are not alone.

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