Enjoying the pain
Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease may occur when the body’s immune system begins to see his own body as an enemy and attack it in a way it normally attacks a virus or some germs in the body. In RA, the immune system attacks the tissues of the joints and breaks it over time causing pain, swelling, and often a deformation of body parts particularly in the hands and feet, due to the wearing down of the joints. RA may lead to kidney and heart failure during the course of time. RA is very difficult to diagnose due to many reasons. For one there are more than 100 different types of arthritis alone and if pain is the main symptom that a patient has, a doctor may not originally suspect RA.
I began my battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA nearly 20 years ago just before my 11th birthday. I was in class 6, during summer vacations I felt severe pain in my feet playing cricket. I told my mom she thought it is due to weakness or I play too much. Pain got worse. I couldn’t move even a little bit. My father took me to the doctor, he advised some tests like uric acid and x-rays of joints. Everything was ok in reports. The doctor prescribed some pain killers and advised rest. I got a little bit of relief with those pain killers but after a few days’ medicine was not as effective as it should be. During this time, I was having home remedies too but all in vain. In short, I visited all the general physicians in my city but the problem was not diagnosed. After a couple of months in bed I was all ok as if I was never hit by any pain ever.
About after 2 years it all started again. Our family physician asked to do some tests apart from x-rays and I was diagnosed as RA patient. This was something new for me and my family. But medication was same. Some pain killers…vitamins etc. I was in lot of pain. I couldn’t wake up in mornings for bath. But during daytime I felt a bit relieved. I was taken to many renowned doctors from Multan, Faisalabad, Lahore, Islamabad and a few other cities. I even visited a lot hakims and peers throughout Punjab but all in vain. I had to listen to a lot of odd things from my friends and relatives regarding my disease which added up my depression.
The disease had become chronic during this whole time. When I was affected I couldn’t play sports. I was and I am fond of playing cricket and badminton. RA completely changed my lifestyle. I get tired too early. I feel like sleeping all day all night. During my graduation I was having a healthy life most of time but I got allergies due to medicine.
It was during my graduation I started reading journals and articles about RA. It does affect every aspect of your life once you are diagnosed and there is no way around that. I began to realize this gradually after I started taking the medicines and could see what symptoms were going to get better and which ones stayed around. Fatigue can be a big issue, there are days when I wake up and its a struggle just to get up and moving because all I want to do is sleep. Some mornings the alarm sounds, I smack the snooze button and just lay there. Sometimes the sense of tired I feel is almost painful in itself, like the way it feels if you’ve just started to drift into a deep sleep and some loud noise forces you from rest. Think of the kind of tired that comes when you get the flu that’s the level of fatigue and aches that I have often on a normal day
I couldn’t describe anything to anyone. I used to play football when I got relief from pain. Due to continuous use of medicine I was having hair fall out. On the flip side, the body can stop responding to medicines properly without warning. Like any other drug, after a certain period of time, the body can become used to the drugs presence and it will cease to provide the relief it once did.
Time has passed I am 31 years old now. I had a struggling career after graduation. I couldn’t manage to adjust in telecom industry due to a lot of travel and continuous work in field. I started MS in electrical engineering. It took more time than usual to complete this level of education due to my illness and lesser motivation due to my struggling career in past. Now its been almost 2 years I am working as lecturer in a university. It’s all due to support of my family. Even though I get depressed sometimes because my family has not been able to understand what I am go through, but they never ever had demotivated me or left me alone. I would have been nothing without their support. My family has been with me that is why I am what I am now. I got flares of pain almost every year. I have to take pain killers and steroids to walk and to act normally. I had to control my mood swings. It is very difficult for me. I have lost a few friends due to my illness because I am vulnerable to hypertension and outburst of words in very rude way. I have to reserve myself, reduce my social circle and time to maintain my relationships with friends and colleagues. My friends and colleagues say a lot of things about my behavior during those times. Maybe they are worried for me. They saw me in bizarre mood, fatigued. They ask me why I am too tired or emotionless or silent. I couldn’t answer them properly. I had to smile and say I am ok… even with all this pain and everything; I have lived a better life; a life lot of people wish for. I am very thankful to my Allah. I will continue to make the most out of my life, tempered by the reality of what it means to live with a chronic and disabling disease.