First–thank you, everyone. Your comments to my last post lifted my spirits and made me smile. It’s so good to know there are people out there who understand and empathize about living with autoimmune arthritis.
Like anyone else who struggles to be “normal” while dealing with chronic pain and disability, occasionally I go dark and gloomy. I don’t like myself this way; I’m a glass-half-full person, generally optimistic and ready to smile. Glum and sad isn’t “me.”
Summertime always tests me, though. At my own home in the mountains, it gets quite warm, even hot in the summer daytime, but nights are almost always blessedly cool. I look forward to the evenings for the relief they bring. But here at my Mom’s place in the very low foothills just above the wide valley floor, the days are a lot hotter than up in the mountains, and the nights don’t cool down much at all. It’s 10 p.m. as I write this, and it’s still 85 degrees outside. Maybe it’ll drop to 70 by sunrise—and then it will start climbing again. These terribly hot days will last until mid-October. Summer lasts such a long, long time.
When I was kid, I liked summertime. I didn’t mind the heat at all. We lived down in the valley, and when school—which I hated–got out, I became an Indian. Summer meant freedom to run and play, to ride my bike and explore, to go to the library and bring home all the books I could fit in my bike’s basket and read them all at my leisure. Summer meant swimming in the back yard pool at my aunt and uncle’s house, playing Marco Polo with my sister and our neighborhood friends there, drinking iced lemonade and eating popsicles. Summer was the Fourth of July with Piccolo Petes and Fire Fountains and sparklers on the back yard patio just after dark. I went barefoot from the moment school let out just before Memorial Day until it started again the day after Labor Day. My fair skin turned cinnamon, my blonde hair flaxen, my young body fit and strong. We ran through the sprinklers and played tag on the lawn as the sun went down, running and playing and laughing until it was dark and the crickets sang. Sure, there were bee stings and skinned knees and sunburns, but they weren’t so bad. I healed.
Summer isn’t magic for me anymore. Even before I was diagnosed with RA, I’d stopped being impervious to the heat. Hot weather makes me feel sluggish, sleepy and irritable. Going outside is like walking into a solid wall of parching heat. And for some reason, I flare more in the summertime. Or, maybe I don’t flare more, I just hurt more when I do flare because I’m already so uncomfortable.
I don’t know. That makes no sense, really, as Mom’s house is cool and comfortable, kept that way by central air conditioning. I only experience the heat when I step outside. But maybe that’s the problem. I feel confined to the indoors by the heat. I can’t just walk outside and enjoy being out there like I can in the fall and winter. In the cold seasons I can bundle up and go out—I can make myself ready for the cold. In summer, though, I can only take off so much. Even my skin is too much when it’s 95 degrees and climbing.
Ergh. I really need to snap out of this funk, gang. My Mom is feeling fairly well, but I’m staying with her because she forgets to take her meds, or worse, forgets why she’s taking them and decides not to anymore—which can cause obvious problems. Other than that, she doesn’t need me, really, so we’re more like roommates than anything else. I’m able to leave her a couple of days each week to go to my aunt and uncle’s house down in the valley—they of the swimming pool—to cook their meals and do their grocery shopping, and anything else they need done. My uncle had a stroke several years ago that disabled him and took most of his eyesight. My aunt needs a break from the caretaking so she can do some things she enjoys.
Since being unemployed, I’ve come to treasure being useful to someone. It makes me happy to be needed, and it’s been nice to make a little spending money, too. I’m worried that this endless, crappy bursitis pain, coupled with my increasingly painful and frequent RA flares, will hinder my ability to keep helping my relatives. What then?
Well, phooey. I know I’ll get over these blahs. I think I’ll start walking again, even if I’m not supposed to because of the danged bursitis. I’ve lost weight this spring—a real triumph—but I’m stuck in place even though I’m still dieting. A little daily exercise might help me jumpstart things. And I know from experience that a 45-minute walk every morning will clear my head and make me feel better mentally as well as physically. Even if I have to go very slowly and not very far, getting out there will make me feel more accomplished. And if I go early-early, I can be done and back inside where it’s cool before it gets miserably hot.
Dare I hope that I might, just might, re-acclimatize myself to the hot valley weather? That somehow by putting myself out in it, I might learn to like it again? Hmmm. I just need to do it. Slather on the sunscreen and go.
Wish me luck? Send me some motivating thoughts, some peace, some smiles and laughs?
Or… how about a little magic?