So now, the dragon is gnawing and blowing searing-hot breath onto the bottoms of my feet, mainly at the base of my toes.
It’s been so long since he did that.
I could do without the reminder. Although my life was full of wonder and adventure back then —I was living and working in Germany during the final years of the Cold War and the joyous fall of the Berlin Wall—I was also struggling with daily, almost unremitting pain on a scale that I’d never before experienced. RD attacked my body and joints within months of arriving there.
This pain, in the here and now, isn’t as awful as it was back then. I say that a lot in these posts, and it’s true, but sometimes I feel like I’m apologizing for complaining about it at all. But pain is pain, and it still takes a moment-by-moment toll on the way I live and work. I wake, as I used to, wondering how on Earth I’ll push through it all day. Simply getting out of bed is demoralizing.
Maybe what I’m feeling now is a sort of weary disbelief. My RD was dormant and mild for so many years, I held onto the hope that it might stay that way. After all, I broke down and started seeing a rheumatologist when the dragon began nibbling on my hands again. I started taking drugs for RD—something I’d decided I’d never bother with again after their spectacular failure during my first 10 years with the disease. I was proud of myself for taking this preventive step; for facing the slow re-awakening of my nemesis head on with humor and bravery.
I guess I hoped I’d headed the monster off at the pass. I don’t want to believe he was too big for me.
With my hands constantly swollen, sore, and achy, and now my feet falling under attack as well, I find myself waiting—with some fear, I’ll admit—for the next blow. What will it be? A knee? A big toe? A shoulder? My rheuma-dragon’s ally, hip bursitis, is flaring again, as well—perhaps it’s in training for a ferocious, full-on attack.
I’m trying not to be discouraged. I recognize that stress, in all its forms, affects RD negatively. My stress levels have risen recently, it’s true, though I reject being stressed by finally having work to accomplish each week. I love freelancing. I love writing. I love being paid for my skill and my work. How could it cause me any stress? I don’t feel stressed over it. I approach my desk with pleasure each day.
And yet, the reality is that deadlines are stressful, and stress—even mild stress—creates whatever those chemicals are in my body that trigger more flares. Just acknowledging that stresses me. The hard fact is that there’s no such thing as a blissful little stress-free bubble for me—or anyone else—to live inside of. The only way we achieve that is by dying.
I’d rather not do that, just yet.
The other, more obvious source of stress (and in turn, increased RD activity) is preparing to move mom into a new home. (And me with her, of course.) We’re presently in the serious process of looking for an apartment or condo to rent or lease—and discovering just how appallingly small even “large” apartments really are, along with their equally appalling prices. To move into one we can afford, Mom must discard, donate, pass along to me and my sister, or sell ¾ of her current belongings. To say that everything she possesses is coated in a thick patina of memories and sentiment is an understatement. And she’s soldiering on, but she’s grieving. She knows this move, which will strip her of most of her physical reminders of a cherished past, will be her last, a final defeat as the generous nest egg Dad left her dwindles away in an ever more expensive and bewildering world. Her courage humbles me.
OK, I’ll admit it. I’m stressed just witnessing the process.
Now add to all that, that Mom and I interact with each other, daily, with the underlying tension of the universal mother-daughter relationship. Add to that two strong women living in a single household in which one has the power and authority of age, relationship, and ownership, and the other has, well, none of the above.
Stressful? Yes. I can’t wait for this move to be over with.
I worry about Mom, too. Her physical health is, naturally, fragile and slowly becoming more so. She’s 82, after all. Her short term memory is increasingly spotty—and her long-term memory is starting to show distortions, too. I’m fearful that this move will exhaust her, forcing her to watch, helpless and powerless, from the sidelines as her incompetent, lazy elder daughter dismantles and discards her life.
Stressful. So stressful.
Well, there’s nothing I can do about any of this except roll with it. And try not to get too stressed. [laughing] I’ll just acknowledge that my rheuma-dragon has cleverly chosen to launch his real attack at the most opportune time for him, and defend myself as best I can. I’ll meditate. Try to get out for a walk each morning. Breathe. Pace myself. Rest when I can. Take my meds and push on through. This is a big ol’ bump in the road, but it will be behind me by summer’s end.
I’ll just take it one day at a time.
Oh, goodness, Wren. Yes, stress is a great ally of the dragon and you’ve certainly got your share of it. And of course, these new symptoms breed more stress. Like any good enemy, RA will attack you when your attention is focused elsewhere and your physical resources are otherwise engaged. Yes, you will get through this and but sometimes the only way through things is through them. Know that I’m sending good thoughts and lots of hugs your way. Please keep us posted (and we’re here if you need to vent!).
Thanks, Carla. I needed those virtual hugs! I hesitated to post this today because I hate to be whiney, but I’m glad I did it anyway. It helped to write out and understand what I’ve been feeling–and that’s a stress-reducing step right there. Venting is underrated. ;o) Sending a warm hug backatcha.
So sorry to hear your dragon is not backing down. When I get stressed, the same thing happens – the old lady just gets grumpy, and in doing so, makes me grumpy. When there’s so much going on, sometimes all you need is ten minutes to be with yourself. Sit somewhere peaceful – on the porch, the backyard, a quiet area of the house, no writing, no thinking about anything, just be with your breath and the silence. It’s a little recharge I try to do when life gets hectic. I will conjure the image of a waterfall to douse your flames and send it out to you. Hope you feel better soon. Hugs.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful wishes, advice and the waterfall sending, J. I’m hanging in and plan to continue. ;o)
Oh Wren, I hope this will pass and not grow into this big thing you are dreading! I find the thought of what may happen almost worse than coping with the day to day and I have a very poor pain threshhold – let’s face it, I am a whimp and you are not judging from the leverl of activity and stress you are describing. Don’t hesitate taking whatever drugs are available. This is what they are invented for. You can always reduce them again at a later stage. Look after yourself, I am sure your mum will appreciate it in the long run. Sending you best wishes!
Thank you so much, Sabine. I’m doing my best to take care of myself, including taking pain meds as needed. I’m discovering that my symptoms seem to be at their worst during rises in barometric pressure (which here in California, means rising temps. 104 F today. Ugh). At least I can blame part of this aggravation on that–though I can’t do a thing about it. ;o)
Whenever you comment or I visit your blog, I’m reminded of a truly nice three-day visit to the Rhine Valley many years ago. I wish I could remember the name of the village we stayed in, but that’s gone now–and I was too young and full of myself to realize that if I didn’t record it somewhere, someday it would slip down the memory hole. At least the pleasant memories themselves didn’t go with the village’s name!
Wishing you the best, my friend, and sending calm and comfort across the seas to you.
I’m not surprised that your symptoms are flaring up at this time of upheaval. And it’s true that deadlines cause stress, but the good kind, the kind that challenges and comes with rewards. I send you good thoughts that you make it through this trying time without any worsening of your symptoms. Take the time for warm relaxing baths and get as much rest as you can. Sleep is so important to calm the dragon’s fires.
Hi, Irma! I’m right with you. Deadline stress is the kind I welcome (at least, most of the time!). There’s almost always a reward for the effort. The reward for the other types (moving, etc) I’m going through just now … well … I guess it will be living through it, and making sure that Mom does, too. And, of course, having it done with.
Thanks for the kind thoughts and smart suggestions. I’m pleased to report I’m actually sleeping pretty well, lately–probably because I’m so worn out when I crawl into bed. 😉
Wishing you well, m’dear. I hope you’re feeling better after that recent high-mgm flare!
Hate to read this post…sorry you’re suffering. Ain’t it the truth that when the beast raises it’s head, it causes stress, which probably makes the beat madder…a vicious cycle indeed. Take care of yourself.
It’s tough enough to let go of your own things. When someone else’s feelings are added to the mixture it’s a greater challenge.
We are starting to make tentative steps to downsize.
I hope there are many things we have totally forgotten about that we won’t mind losing.
All the best to you with your RA. When I saw burning feet I felt immediate sympathy
Such a double edges sword. Stress increases inflammation, and how are we to not be stressed about it all? I find meditation beats medication. I have tried to keep an open mind to all options.