Gone Shopping

I dreamed last night that I was trying on new hands.

I know. Creepy. But as in most dreams, trying on fresh, new pairs of mitts was as unremarkable as doing the same with new shoes. Except … like it is when I get new shoes, the dream process was fraught with pain and frustration.

See, when I put the first shoe of a new pair on my foot, I know instantly whether the pair will be coming home with me. More often than not, knife-like pain shoots rack of shoesthrough my foot the moment I put my weight down on it. Groaning–and silently shouting expletives in my head–I yank that instrument of torture off my foot, slap it and it’s mate back on the rack, and continue looking. But the fun has gone out of the hunt.

In this dream it was the same thing. I’d pick out a nice, attractive new pair of hands from a row of towering shelves like the kind you see in discount stores.. I’d work the new pair on gently, like gloves (this made absolute sense in the dream), and bend my fingers. Instantly, rude pain would jab into my joints and I’d have to pull the offending hands off and keep looking. With each failure, I became more glumly resigned to keeping the hands I had, even though they were painful and frequently dysfunctional.

I woke suddenly, frustrated and disappointed. Good morning, world.

I’ve only rarely dreamed about my rheumatoid disease. Which is odd, really, considering its grumpy, growl-y domination of my thoughts–of my life–most days. There are a number of creaky body parts I’d love to replace too.

For instance, I’d love a new pair of feet. These old ones are pretty much worn out. They hurt even without shoes, even when they’re warm and toasty. Imagine how nice it would be have new ones! I could walk all over the place, on any surface–even on sharp, uneven gravel–with little or no discomfort. I could wear any kind of shoe my fancy fell on: frivolous little things with wafer-thin soles, gorgeous, dangerous stiletto-heeled pumps, long, sexy, calf-hugging boots, strappy little sandals crusted with glittery jools. I could wear any pair of athletic shoes I wanted, and I could have classy leather oxfords to wear with slacks.

Instead of any of those, the shoes I have to buy must be flat or –maybe–have a very low heel of two inches or less. The toe box must be wide and round, and there has to be a sturdy arch support. If I need to wear the shoes more than an hour or so at a time, the soles need to be soft and–ideally–padded.

So, I have a rack full of overpriced, clunky-looking, old-lady shoes in my closet. My single pair of nice leather pumps are simple and black, with a small, rounded toe and a two-inch heel. I only wear them if I know I won’t have to walk any further than the parking lot and back. Once.

I could really appreciate a new pair of hips, too. To start, I’d get a smaller pair, since the ones I was born with have always beena little too wide for my taste. But more importantly, I’d choose hips that didn’t hurt. I’d get a pair that didn’t jab me every time I took a step, or start aching when I sat still for more than a few minutes. I’d love a pair that didn’t throb during the night, waking me up and forcing me to roll to one side, then the other, over and over until morning.

Dreams can be fun, and they do have a tendency to put images to amorphous longings. But that’s all. Reality requires that I live with the hands, feet, and hips I have, however grumbly they make me. And being realistic also means that I’m grateful. For what? That my rheuma-dragon hasn’t caused more damage than this; that the meds I’m taking for it are keeping the old monster drowsy and bumbling; and that there’s always hope for the future.

So much of life depends on our attitude and outlook. I try to keep mine positive and optimistic, to keep smiling, and to keep my eyes peeled for the gifts it offers every single day.

And, of course, I dream of a cure.

Inner Dialogue

Today is the third day of a dull, all-over flare about an hour ago.

I injected my latest Humira dose the day before yesterday. And I thought, “well, maybe I’m hurting a lot more today because I’m at the end of that last, two-week To Dodose.” The thought was both hopeful and resigned. If I was feeling worse because the Humira was wearing off, that meant it was actually working (I felt better after taking it). That was the hopeful part. On the other hand, more pain might simply mean my rheuma-dragon was getting stronger—and the Humira was another useless weapon.

But it’s only been a couple of days. Hopeful Wren tells me to be patient, let the Humira kick in. Pessimistic Wren tells me to chuck the happy-crappy and face the truth. The stuff doesn’t work.

Then rational Wren chimes in. These drugs, she says, can take a long time to work. Usually, three to six months. It’s been almost three months, yes, but that doesn’t mean the Humira won’t ever work. And you know when you see the doc, he’s going to tell you to be patient and give it another three months. And you’ll nod and say OK because, really, what else are you going to do?

Sigh. Naturally, I hoped this fancy, new (to me) biologic DMARD would quickly turn the tables on my rheumatoid disease. I was looking forward to waking up in the morning without being as stiff as the tin man. I thought it would be so nice toGet-Out-of-Flare-Free_21 put on my house robe with hands and fingers that didn’t gripe and yell with pain. I was looking forward to swinging my legs off the bed and standing up—and not even noticing my feet because, of course, there was no reason to notice them. No stiffness, no pain, no nothing.

And I was looking forward to going through my days without being constantly reminded—by suddenly aching joints, sudden twinges, constant low-level soreness, and a mild but insidious fatigue—that I have an incurable disease that may cripple or even kill me one day, whether I take medications for it or not.

Do you guys go through this too? This constant, involuntary inner dialogue you-get-used-to-itabout being sick? I get so tired of it. My mind’s constant grousing makes me feel like 1) a weak, sniveling wimp, 2) a complainer (even if I don’t say anything out loud to anyone), and 3) a histrionic hypochondriac.

Yeah, I know better. I’m really not any of those things.

My life up until age 31 was perfectly normal, with all of the normal illnesses and injuries: chicken pox, skinned knees, an occasional bout of flu, a sharp pneumonia and a couple of bad sprained ankles when I was a teen (platform shoes), and seasonal colds. I only thought about feeling bad when I felt bad, and that was relatively rare.

The same applies to those six years when my RD mysteriously went into medication-free remission. The only difference was that I can only recall a single cold during that period.

But when my rheumatoid disease is active, whether it’s mild or severe or somewhere in between, it forces my mind to dwell on it. And that makes me question my own feelings, and sometimes, my own reality.

On to more pleasant news: Mom and I dragged out the decorations and brought Christmas into our new home. This is a hard time of year for her; Christmas just hasn’t been the same for her since my Dad died, and the holiday brings with it 592014 Christmas 2 years of memories—with Dad as the central character.

But this year she was the one who brought up decorating the place. I’m so glad! She doesn’t miss him less, but maybe living in a place that’s not connected to memories of Dad is soothing her pain a little bit. I hope so. We had a good time putting up the tree, choosing and hanging the ornaments, talking about the memories each one brought to the surface, and setting out Santas and elves and pinecones and sparkly candles all over the place. It made us both laugh and smile, and you know what? There’s nothing better in the world than that.

Thanks for listening to me rant today. Felt good to put it in words—a catharsis, in a way. I hope this post finds you feeling good and enjoying the holiday season and the close of another year on this precious old planet we all call home.