I used to be a morning person. I loved mornings. I loved to start my day early, and I loved to go to bed early. That was before RA and FMS. Now, I wish my mornings would start at noon.
I awoke this morning to the grim reality of these diseases. Both my hands were curled up, and I wanted to run to the bathroom and soak them in hot water, but my entire body felt like it had been run over with a MONSTER truck. I managed to roll off my bed and get to the floor, but when I got to the floor, I realized my hands would not pull me up. (Talk about grace.) At that moment, I could have called out to my husband for help or I could I have just sat there and cried but I instead I prayed for strength. Then, holding back tears, I stretched out the stiffness in my joints the best I could, got on my knees and managed to pull myself up with my hands that were starting to ease up. This is definitely not the image of me I want my children to wake up to. (I swore I could hear Reba McEntire singing in the background “I am a Survivor.”)
In the movies, when the hero falls, he quickly gets up, dusts himself off, and continues running (I am clearly envisioning Jack Bauer at this moment).
One thing I have always been is a survivor and in the past, I always got up, dusted myself off, and walked away gracefully. These days, I don’t always get up right away and not necessarily gracefully either. I want to, but it is not always in my power. I have learned to put self-pity aside because pity consumes you and only pulls you down. I do have pity parties, but I am having less and less of those these days.
This wasn’t a typical morning, but I have bad mornings like this one once or twice month. Most days, I wake up to the usual pain and stiffness in my legs and knees that I have gotten used to. For whatever reason, I haven’t yet gotten used to the mornings that these diseases seem to be winning. Last night before going to bed, I felt a flare-up coming on but as any chronic pain sufferer knows, there is not a darn thing you can do to stop a flare-up. In all reality, there is not a thing you can do the control the strength or intensity of rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or any chronic pain conditions has on you. The only thing you can do is control your response.
There are 46 million Americans who suffer from the 100 forms of arthritis. More than 2 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and there are no cures for the majority of the 100 forms including fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. You would think that the grim reality of diseases like RA and FMS would slow people down or that they would make them want to stop living. Those of us who live these with these diseases know that that is not simply not true.
When I first received my
life sentence diagnosis of RA, I wanted some kind of inkling of hope. I wanted to hear someone say that I would get better and that it would get easier. The medical community gives off a message that RA is a death sentence when in reality that is not true. As for the rest of the world, they don’t understand what it means to live with chronic pain and all the symptoms that come with diseases like RA and FMS.
I remember that feeling that “my life was over” and that there was no possible way that I could live a life like this. The stereotypes of people living with chronic pain were those out of a psych ward or those addicted to pain medications and not “normal” human beings were the images that floated in my head. Perhaps, that is the ignorance of society that does not understand sickness. I live with chronic pain and I am sick everyday of my life and I am neither a drug user nor a psych patient. The millions of people who live with chronic pain everyday of their lives are not all drug users and psych patients.
We are mothers and fathers. We are hardworking members of society. We are people, just like the healthy average Joe walking down the street. I remember the months of grieving after my diagnoses and I keep coming back to the same conclusion – I was a mother, a wife, a daughter, an aunt, a sister, and a friend. I was the same person I was before my diagnoses, and I was going to be that same person, a year from now, five, ten, twenty and even fifty years from now.
Perhaps, I have taken the stiff-upper lip approach to my diseases and I have moved on, but I am not the only one who lives my life fighting for survival everyday. Granted, we have to share the spotlight and many mornings with chronic pain and the other glorious, not so graceful symptoms of our diseases, but we still choose to live our lives. In reality, that is all we can do.