Sunday, April 3, 2016

RA -- So what is this thing anyway?

It's morning on the third of April, and I've been up for a couple of hours now. I woke up in pain, mostly hands, wrists and shoulders, but overall I was very stiff and could not move easily. It had been just about 12 hours since I took anti-inflammatory medication which is supposed to control the pain, though sometimes it doesn't. I thought this morning might be a bad one.

I managed to get through the first part of my morning routine  slowly and carefully, adapting my motions to whatever triggered more pain, and then I had to sit still for a while. I took more anti-inflammatory medication, right on schedule, and that helped lower the amount and duration of pain, but it took 20 minutes or so to begin to be effective.

Then it was time for a cup of coffee, reheating some from last night. I could barely hold the cup. Barely pour the coffee. This after waiting for the anti-inflammatory medication to work --  which it was doing though I was still stiff, still in pain.

Gradually, the stiffness dissipated and the pain lessened sufficiently for me to start typing.

This is pretty much my routine every morning. The mornings are the worst.

They say that the anti-bodies are released in quantity -- and attack the joints, muscles and organs -- while one is sleeping, and that is the reason why mornings can be so difficult for people with rheumatoid arthritis and similar auto-immune conditions.

It can take hours, sometimes all day, to get past the initial problems of just getting up in the morning.

The medication I take is partially effective in controlling the pain and inflammation. I rate it on a percentage basis, 10%-70%. Its effectiveness varies throughout the day and night. Sometimes relief is almost complete, other times it seems like the medication isn't working at all. I am never entirely free of pain. One wrong move, and I get a sharp reminder in my finger, wrist, arm, shoulder that I have a condition and must adapt my movements to that condition, or pay a heavy price in pain for moving the wrong way or too far in the right way.

That means every action has to be thought through in advance.

And I'm learning how many things I can't do anymore or can only do with great difficulty. Opening a can, lifting a 5 gallon water bottle, putting on a long-sleeve shirt, tying shoes, brushing teeth... the list goes on.

Learning, yes. Appreciating what I still can do, too.

I look out the window, and the sky is still blue, the birds still sing, and my heart can and does still soar with joy.

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