Awake in the night

Crrrrack! Bam! KaaaBOOM BOOM BOOM boom kaabam boom …bamboom… boom…


I lay awake in the dark, eyes wide, heart beating wildly as my mind reeled, trying to make sense of the stunning, fantabulous racket that had just jerked me so rudely out of a sound sleep. I blinked. There’s a busy road, one of just two main thoroughfares that traverse this densely populated foothill community from north to south. It runs just a hundred yards or so behind Mom’s condo. Traffic moves fast. You can hear cars whizzing by even during the darkest hours of the night.

Had there just been a horrific accident? Should I get up? Look out the window, try to see past the back yard fence and through the screen of trees t? Were there a couple of cars—at least!—laying crushed, mangled and upside-down out there? People hurt? Could anyone have survived such a catastrophic, violent collision?

I tested my sleep-stiffened hips and legs, gingerly preparing to sit up and go to the window when there was a startling flash of blue-white light. Almost at the same moment came the explosion, another otherworldly crashing, ear-splitting cacophony of booms, as if giants were rolling house-sized boulders instead of bowling balls down the road just outside my window.

And suddenly, I knew. It was thunder.

Thunder.  Now I remembered the weather guy on the evening news talking about thunderstorms possibly moving through the area overnight. No big deal, really, except for the threat of random wildfires caused by lightning strikes.

So the ear-splitting noise that had torn me so suddenly out of my sleep was nothing more fearsome than the concussion of sound caused by bolts of lightning.

Still. Thunderstorms are fairly rare in California at any time of year, but even more so in the summer. Along with their rarity, for some reason the storms have always been some distance from wherever I happened to be. For me, thunderstorms were nothing but rain, lightning flashes and thunder that was merely a soft rumble in the background.

Well, this was no quiet rumble. It sounded like the storm was hovering 10 feet or so above the roof.

As I laid there awake, I became aware of the RA and bursitis pain in my hips, hands and, oddly, ankles. It was relatively mild pain, a naggy throb that sort of waxed and waned along with the roiled air pressure accompanying the storm. At one point I could feel the pressure building up suddenly inside my right ankle, so intensely that I thought, a little wildly, it’s going to explode! A few seconds later the pressure eased back and it returned to that irritating little throb.

I considered getting up to take some tramadol, but a glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand reminded me that not enough time had passed since the dose I’d taken just before getting into bed. It had been about four hours, long enough for the drug to have mostly worn off, but I needed to wait for at least six hours to take any more.

I sighed, shifted and turned onto my side, cuddling down deeper into my pillow and blanket. The storm seemed to be moving along. There were no more flashes and thunderclaps. I drifted off, hoping vaguely that I’d just sleep on through the pain until morning, and that there would be no more storms to wake me up.

There weren’t. I slept.

Today, with the weather still very unstable and the big low pressure area stalled in place over northern California, I’m one big ache. It took more than an hour for the overnight stiffness in my joints, particularly my hips, knees and ankles, to ease. And while I’m certainly not moving like a nicely oiled machine, I could probably beat the tin man in a race to the liveoak trees down the street as long as I hid his oilcan.

The low pressure and unstable weather is supposed to move out later today. I’m anticipating some additional discomfort as the air pressure rises, but once it stabilizes I expect most of the pain to dissipate along with it. I’m never without some level of pain these days—so different from how the rheuma dragon used to attack me, when the intermittent flares were huge and intense and always disabling, and almost always lasted several days at a time before suddenly disappearing without warning or explanation—but I’ve learned over time to cope. Even given the intractable hip bursitis I live with now along with the rheumatoid arthritis, it could all be so much worse. I’m deeply grateful for the RA drugs  I have now that keep it under control. And grateful for tramadol and, occasionally, the stronger painkillers that allow me to keep on keeping on.

Autumn is on its way, and after that (if we’re very lucky; cross your fingers?) the western rainy season should begin. Bring on the thunderstorms. I can take it.

11 thoughts on “Awake in the night

  1. Ooof, ouch, I ‘feel your pain’!! Glad it was bearable though. When I was first diagnosed I seemed to react really badly to storms, then I went through a phase of being fine and not reacting at all, and now I’m somewhere in the middle – dashed uncomfortable but bearable, especially knowing it’s only going to be temporary while the storm lasts! Thankfully, like you, we don’t get very many, although we’ve had a couple of corkers this year!

    Here’s hoping you don’t get any more like that!


  2. So well written Wren! Thunderstorms are rare in Seattle also. If it were only as easy as oiling our frozen joints. 🙂


  3. i discovered your blog today; it is excellent by the way. I have RA and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. I saw your note on Tramadol. It concerns me you are waiting that long for pain relief when the usual repeat dose is every 4-6 hrs (unless you have kidney problem as evidenced by low creaatinine < 30. Total daily dose of Tramadol shouldn't exceed 400 mg/day. Just speaking as an RN, I'd advise you to call your doctor to discuss this medication. Perhaps there are some other mitigating factors I'm not aware of. However, It always concerns me when patients with chronic pain are under-medicated.


    • Thanks for your concern, Suzy. As prescribed by my rheumatologist, I take two 50 mg tablets of Tramadol up to four times per day (every six hours, and never more than 400 mgs total), and only as needed. Usually that works well enough for me; I save the more potent pain meds for really bad flares. I’m careful and I do know how important it is to stay ahead of the pain. 🙂


  4. I love thunderstorms — and Texas has them in spades (when we actually do get rain!). Like you, I don’t like the aches and pains that come with them, but I think they’re marvellous while they’re lighting up the skies. Beautifully written, by the way. Thanks for the wonderful post.


  5. You had some of our weather. I love thunderstorms except for the additional pain that usually accompanies them. I am ready for fall. btw, outstanding shot of the lightning.


  6. I often feel a change before I even get into bed at night. It’s amazing how the weather affects us so much.
    You made a lovely comment on my blog and now I can return the favor. You are a beautiful, warm writer and I look forward to reading more about your adventures in living with this disease.
    J.G. Chayko “the old lady”


  7. Thunderstorms are common here and yes…they often scare the begibbers out of me as well. I hope those storms stay clear of you for awhile. It is so weird how weather patterns everywhere have changed the past 10 years or so. In my house I have found that if it isn’t a storm stirring up the commotion, it is my furry footed kitties. I swear they sound like elephants sometimes in the middle of the night!


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