Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chronic pain is a big bully. Don't let it win

I always have so many plans for my next post here, and then I suddenly change my mind because something else becomes immediately relevant. Today, it's letting chronic pain win.

I started my new semester yesterday, after five weeks of winter break. The majority of my break, I found myself confined to the bed or the couch, struggling to get up just to take a shower. The BF basically acted as my nursemaid. Now, I love him a lot, and am thrilled that he is so willing to take care of me, but being shut inside all the time really made me crazy. I've been ready to get back to school for days. I'd been out briefly with my mom on Sunday and Monday, and, all things considered, felt pretty good when Tuesday rolled around. I had only an afternoon lecture from 2 to 3:15, so I screwed around online, enjoyed my banana and juice breakfast slowly, and gave myself time to digest my morning meds. When the time came to head for the bus stop, I picked up a leisurely pace and strolled my way there. I made it early, which delighted me to no end. How could I ever have taken WALKING for granted? It is seriously the best!

I made it to campus. I made it to class with minimal trouble from pesky stairs, ramps, and icy spots. By the time I caught the bus home, I was dealing with a little bit more pain, but nothing worrisome. I had a pretty great first day back.

Despite my extra busy MWF schedule, I was actually excited to get to my four classes today. I spaced them out, planning carefully during my registration period so as to allow myself an hour between classes for navigation through campus. The first class, Environmental Chemistry, had a torturously early start at 8 am, but I figured it would be fine and I'd get used to it.

Until I woke up this morning. 6 am for anyone is kind of disgusting, what with the dark and the cold and the alarm clock. 6 am when your body is in full-blown mutiny mode is horrendous. Somehow I got myself out of bed, shuffled to the kitchen, shuffled to the bathroom, shuffled back to bed. Somehow I got myself mostly dressed. I made it to 6:45, in fact, before I had to sit down and cry. I called my mom, and left a sad, sorrowful voicemail. I starting e-mailing professors. "Sorry, I have knees the size of small babies. I can't come to class today."

Right now, I'm wearing my dorkiest fleece robot pajama pants and the biggest shirt ever. My fuzzy slippers are waiting right by the bed in case I need them. My knees and ankles are grotesque beneath my giant socks. My fingertips are purple and even my hips, not a common achy spot for me, are protesting every movement. What gives, body?? I'm as miserable today as I was perky yesterday, and on top of that, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself. So what do I do? Can I sit around and be mopey all day? Do I just cry?

Since my arthritis became an excruciating menace in November, I haven't had a day like yesterday. My joints haven't had a chance to feel great, or even good, in what seems like a long time. When the pain started to let up on Sunday, I jumped (or, more accurately, shuffled) at the chance to get out and have some sort of life again. Then I did it again on Monday. Then, I forgot to take it easy on myself yesterday. Today, I'm suffering. Yeah, I will readily admit that I cried about it a little bit. I sat around for a few minutes and pouted. I woke up the poor, cozy BF so he could hear how sad I was.

But that's not cool. In my intro post, I wrote about how I didn't want to let my arthritis define me. I still don't. I want to take care of myself, yes, and take it easy for the day so I can consider heading to my lecture tomorrow. I don't want to feel sorry for myself, or mope all day. If I let this pain rule my life, I let my illness take over who I am and what I do, and something about that doesn't sit right with me. I'm a student, an overachiever, an obsessive organizer, a planner. I'm a woman, a girlfriend and a daughter. I'm all of these things before I'm a rheumatoid arthritis patient.

Today I can wrap up in all my warm, soft blankets, prop my head up with my Pillow Pet Dinosir, and pamper myself. But I can also GET STUFF DONE. I already changed my primary care physician, talked to my mom, learned about filing for disability, called about my unemployment woes, relearned how to write a cover letter, checked on my textbooks' arrival dates, learned how to hyperlink (pretty fancy, eh??) and sent an e-mail to Disability Services on campus. I hurt today, but I also need to get things done, and I'm not going to let my pain stop me.

The way I see it, you need to pamper yourself. Take care of your poor, angry body. But don't feel sorry for yourself. If you want to read more, read on your painful days. If you want to get those errands done, do what you can with the limitations you've got. It's realistic to expect that your illness will set limitations for you, some days. It's not realistic that you drop everything when those days happen. When the pain hits, push back. It's just a big jerk, and you are in charge of the boundaries you set.

1 comment:

  1. IT's amazing how we tak things like walking and getting outside for granted, isn't it? Before my gastric bypass I was so fat I could barely walk a square block without collapsing. Now I love to walk, and work out, and be out in the air, or down by the creek in the summer. Don't let it beat you! You can make it!