Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pushing through the rough stuff

Generally, I have a very organized post that I've written after some extensive thought and planning. I don't really have anything like that this week because a more immediate situation has taken over my life.

I began my Humira treatment on January 25th, after having been on an unsuccessful three months of methotrexate. At first, I injected (or, more accurately, the BF injected FOR me) Humira twice a month. On February 26th, my rheumatologist bumped me up to weekly Humira injections because my body still showed limited signs of responding.

Today is March 31st, and I am in more pain than ever. I literally stumble through every day of my life, and sometimes I struggle to stay the happy and positive person that my friends and loved ones have come to expect. When people say, as one friend did today, "What have you been up to?" I don't know how to respond, because what I'm up to is nothing more than trying to retain some semblance of myself through this dewomanizing, dehumanizing battle with my own body.

I didn't expect that I wouldn't be able to greet the oncoming spring with my characteristic joy. Around my rheumatologist's office, Humira has been touted as the miraculous treatment that immediately restores those sufferers who were unable to find relief in the less-harsh medication options. I guess I assumed Humira would be the "Superman drug" for me too.

So what do we do when our expectations fail, or when the superhero drug we have long awaited falls flat? I must admit to my friends, new and old, that I have not been the best at coping for the last few weeks. My positivity feels a little forced, and I can't quite muster up the strength to fight back at my disease some days. I want to be inspirational to other young adults who are suffering through some sort of chronic disease, but this week is not my week.

The key, I think, is that sometimes we can't be all hearts and flowers and positivity. It certainly helps to keep a bright mindset, but chronic illness is a serious and life-changing diagnosis. Sometimes, it will weigh on you very much. Sometimes, it feels like my RA is weighing down my whole life, as well as my body. So no, being happy all the time probably isn't realistic.

Pushing back is. Grim determination can often be the answer. I don't want to dress myself, haul myself out of the shower, or drag myself up the stairs, but sometimes I have to. I'm not going to be all happy hearts and unicorn farts about it, I just grit my teeth and do it. A lot of chronic pain is just doing it, because to fight back and assert yourself is better than allowing your illness to dictate your emotional well-being and your physical presence.

Living every day under the oppressive gaze of your chronic pain is a miserable, miserable place to be, but only if you let it feel that way. This week, I've been feeling suffocated beneath my pain, but I'm pushing back because I have to.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Feeling pretty when it's an uphill battle

Hello everyone! It's spring (sort of) and that calls for a much more cheerful post today. The truth is that I was not totally satisfied with my previous post here. I felt that I did quite a lot of whining, and not much positive thinking. I'm going to make today's effort much more upbeat, so please see it as kind of a companion post to last week's.

Now, as I discussed last week, it's very difficult for me to maintain any sort of self-esteem since my arthritis began to attack my body in earnest. I suspect that this could be the case for many a chronic pain patient, since chronic pain often manifests itself in a number of unpleasant physical symptoms. I don't want to feel terrible about my body all the time, of course, because my body feels pretty terrible all by itself! I did some brainstorming, and, integrating both my own routines and some that I'd really like to try, came up with this list of self-esteem boosting tips. Let's take a look.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chronic pain devoured my self esteem

In my last post, I discussed overcoming the shame that has accompanied my arthritis. Today, I want to talk about how chronic pain affected my self image.

I don't know if there truly is a body type that reflects an unhealthy immune system. However, I have always felt unhealthy, and I do think my body reflects that. After being born premature, I was a colicky and fussy infant. By 5 years old,  I had developed asthma that sticks with me to this day. Rarely has a winter passed that I have not gotten sick, as I seem to be far more prone to illness than anyone else I know. Now, at 22, I am facing swift, aggressive R.A.

As an unhealthy child and teen, I never felt that my body was "right." It has never seemed to function correctly, it never looked right, and everything about it felt saturated in wrongness. Leaving the high school environment definitely pulled me away from the incredibly unhealthy infatuation with body image of which most high school girls are guilty. As a college student, I have made some impressive strides in accepting myself, and working to change the things I felt were changeable.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A sense of accomplishment: My take on a really generic essay prompt

Hey everyone! I have been busy busy this week applying for scholarships. Today, I completed a particularly difficult essay, and I would like to share it with all of you. Generally, I'm a very strong writer, but I struggled a great deal with this essay. I am often unwilling to use my arthritis to garner sympathy, pity, etc. but I feel that this might be a different situation altogether. Arthritis is a big part of my life right now, and I wanted to share that with the scholarship board, so they understand where I'm coming from and who I am. I would not be this particular version of Kathryn without my R.A.

Anyway, here's the essay prompt: Help us get to know you beyond what’s in your resume and transcript. Tell us about one or more instance when you felt a sense of accomplishment and discuss how or why it was significant. You may include examples from any aspect of your life such as academic, extra-curricular, community service, family, or work.

And here's my take on that...