I've spent the last three months lost in my own thoughts. I have slept, awoken, learned, traveled...I have lived in constant physical pain. While this is not unusual for me, the pain has become so much more than just a frustration. As I counted down to my one year treatment benchmark, my pain turned into a menace. It haunted all my social interactions, alienating me from almost everyone I value. It trailed behind me as I tried to enjoy my travels, and all the experiences and vacations I had the pleasure to embark upon in 2012. It kept me from doing the simplest things - taking notes for school became a discouraging impossibility. Getting up to turn in my daily assignments felt like a monstrous, hopeless effort. Worst of all, I didn't have the positivity, the hope and the spirit to continue pushing forward.
When I started this blog, and started my journey through RA, I insisted continuously that I would never let this disease define who I am. I declared that I would not let it beat me.
It has. I haven't written a blog in three months because I am so ashamed to admit, to myself, to my readers, to my friends and loved ones, that I feel utterly and completely defeated by my illness. One day, struggling to work on an assignment for my philosophy course, I turned to DJ and cried, "I hate how my arthritis has taken over my whole life." He looked at me for a moment and said, "It IS your life."Nothing has ever been so torturously true. I missed graduation celebrations, birthdays, New Year's resolutions, and the one year anniversary of this blog. I have hidden my emotionally broken self away from the people and things that I care so much about, because I can't face them when I've let this disease beat me.
I am happy to say that my pain is under (very, very tenuous) control with the help of massive joint injections, Vicodin, and a daily steroid. I am slightly hopeful that Orencia will come through where my Humira did not, and I will be able to face 2013 on steadier ground. Even with the pain mostly gone, though, I feel so overwhelmingly defeated that I can't pull myself out of this funk.
Deciding on blog topics is not something that is usually very tricky for me. I can write my posts in the shower and have them completed before my hair dries. But this one...I have struggled for nearly a month, trying to tell myself that this is a useless subject, a boring story, and not really a very moving blog entry. But to be very honest with myself, the sorts of life changes for which chronic pain is responsible often include drastic and emotionally difficult changes in perspective and mood. In short, depression is a very valid and totally honest part of the coping process. My depression is part of my coping process, and this blog is, after all, about my coping process.
Depression is a strange, rude beast. It creeps up without giving any notice of its arrival, and occupies both body and mind without any indications of its presence. One day in October, I woke up and realized that I hated what my life had become, hated my body and all its failures, hated my disease and my misfortune and a million other things. Since then, being alive feels like the biggest effort. Socializing makes me anxious and leaves me feeling more alone than ever. People, friends even, said things like, "At least it's not cancer," or "cheer up, it'll be better soon." I understand the sentiment, and I appreciate the support. I am, of course, so grateful that RA is all I have, and that I am in good health besides the one disease from which I have relatively recently begun to suffer. But I need some love, friends, and some compassion. Please don't tell me to cheer up. If I could, I certainly would, because lying in bed every day feeling hopeless and alone is absolutely the worst. Hopelessness, loneliness, pessimism - these are choking, stifling feelings.
Every day is such an effort that I sometimes don't even get out of bed. My to-do list gets longer every minute, but my beautiful new 2013 planner (thanks Mom!) remains on my desk, still empty. I know I have appointments to make, paperwork to complete, and two important classes to finish before the February 20th deadline. My schoolwork remains unfinished.
This is not an easy place to write from, and it's even more difficult to drag myself out of this cavernous negativity to get anything else done. I try. When I finally manage to haul myself out of bed every day, I will get dressed, prepare a meal, sit down, and do one thing. If one thing is all I've managed, I consider that a success. So far, handling my depression seems a lot like handling my chronic pain. Set easy goals. Accomplish them. Feel like I did something useful. Repeat. One step at a time, every day.