Buckle your seatbelts… this one will be part pity party, part confessional, part angry rant!
A few weeks ago, I set out with the intention of circling my wagons and writing a series of posts about the many things I do (or don’t do but would like to) to manage life with RA. So I wrote a post about my organizational tools, and another post about exercise. But then a funny thing happened. Somehow, writing about these things (especially the organizational tools) made me depressed. Maybe seeing it in print made me realize how big a part of my life this RA thing is, and how much I actually resent having to do all this stuff. (Guess I’m still camping on the banks of that river in Egypt after all – when do I finally get out of that stage?) And the sad thing is, these two posts were only the tip of the iceberg of the many, many things I need to do to stay well.
So I didn’t just fall off the wagon – I jumped off the wagon, then tipped it over and kicked it, hard.
This is a bit of an exaggeration, since I haven’t abandoned all of my healthy habits. For example, I didn’t stop taking my pills – but I did get a little careless with the times at which I took them and with the steps I usually take to protect my stomach. And I went faithfully to my Remicade infusion last week – a really negative experience I’ll write about another time, since I think it set off this whole rebellious phase I’m in. I’ve been keeping my promise to exercise more, and I’ve also been going to my physical therapy appointments.
But all sorts of other things, big and little, have fallen by the wayside. I’ve been eating really badly. I haven’t been keeping my health journal. I’ve stopped using my neti pot – this was something I started doing to give myself a little extra protection from colds, flu, and allergens, and it really did seem to do the trick. I’ve stopped putting Refresh PM gel in my eyes at night, which I am supposed to be doing for my Sjögren’s Syndrome. I’ve stopped eating yogurt to protect my stomach from my meds and have abandoned my fiber supplements. On my last methotrexate day, I neglected to drink extra water before, during, and after taking the pills, and was completely flattened by nausea, headache, and all sorts of ickiness; ruined the whole day. And I know better by now. There are other things too, but this gives you a general picture.
Yesterday was my wedding anniversary, and my husband and I had planned a one-night getaway (without our son) to a resort hotel and casino. I wore a sexy skirt that was a bit too tight, and knee-high boots that used to be perfectly comfortable before RA. Boy, did I get to see how things have changed. I barely made it through dinner before we had to go back to the room so I could change – and what a relief it was to throw on jeans and my Dansko clogs! But it also upset me a lot. I remember the days when I could tolerate a slightly-uncomfortable-but-cute outfit. After that, we went down to the casino and played slot machines and other games, went back to the restaurant for cheesecake, and generally had fun before collapsing in exhaustion around 3 AM.
Things came to a head this morning. I woke up feeling like a bus had hit me. Okay, we did stay up until 3 AM – but we also slept until 11! Hardly a serious sleep deficit. And the other sad thing was that I didn’t have a drop of alcohol all night. We also stayed pretty sedentary for most of the night – didn’t go dancing, didn’t walk far, didn’t do anything more strenuous than pushing buttons on slot machines. So this horrible, hungover feeling didn’t feel… earned.
The worst, though, came at breakfast. We went down to the restaurant around noon. I usually take my pills at 10 AM, and I was really feeling it. So we ordered our food, and then I decided – stupidly – that since the food would be coming in just a few minutes, I could go ahead and take my pills. (This is a lesson I thought I had learned early on – I absolutely have to eat before taking the pills. I guess maybe the lesson needed repeating.) Well, the food came pretty quickly, but the pills beat it to my stomach, and I started feeling incredibly nauseated, dizzy, and generally awful. I had ordered French toast, which looked wonderful, but I could barely get the fork to my mouth. I forced myself to eat some of it and got a glass of milk into my stomach, knowing that it would help, but had a truly miserable half hour before it worked. And now it’s night, and I’m STILL not feeling well.
Now, this is where the angry rant comes in. IT ISN’T FAIR. My “wild night out” was incredibly tame to have caused such suffering. My husband had the same night I did and feels perfectly fine. Friends of mine can stay out all night drinking, get hardly any sleep, and yes, they feel crappy the next day - but then it’s gone. If past experiences are any indication, I will be paying for this for days.
I just want some NORMAL LIFE. I want to be able to overindulge at Christmas. I don’t want to have to do a million little stupid things every day just to keep this body working. I want to be able to have the occasional night out without so much suffering. I want to be able to drink alcohol. I want to tire myself out running around shopping, going to parties, doing all those fun holiday things and just have it be NORMAL TIRED, not bone-crushing pain. I actually did very little running around this year, and still paid for every minute of it.
I really thought I had made peace with my trade-offs. I knew that because of the prednisone I am taking, going off my diet for even a short time would have much bigger consequences than it normally would for me. I had decided that I was okay with gaining extra pounds, and was willing to work hard to take them off when the holidays were over. I knew that every event I chose to attend meant at least a day of recovery. But somewhere along the line, I stopped being okay with these things. I am NOT okay. I am ANGRY.
I think this happens to most people with RA once in awhile. We just get angry, and tired of the whole thing, and start pushing at the boundaries to see where they are. Some people go farther than I did and just stop taking their meds. (I’m not talking here about people who choose not to take meds because they want to treat their RA naturally – that’s a whole different thing, and a choice I respect.) Some people do things like continuing to drink alcohol regularly even though they are on methotrexate or have liver conditions. My forms of rebellion are smaller than these, and this is why it upsets me so much that they have had such a huge effect. I NEED all of these little maintenance things, and it really pisses me off.
Anger – another one of the stages of grief. This is not the first time I have visited this stage, and it probably won’t be the last. I am tempted to censor this blog entry. It’s not positive, it’s not proactive, and it doesn’t put a happy face on RA, or make me look particularly strong in my coping. Anger isn’t pretty or easy. It is where I am right now, though. And I did promise that next time I had a pity party, I would invite you!
So here I am, good and angry. Here I am, paying for every moment of fun I’ve had over the holidays, tallying it up and realizing that it’s such a pitifully small amount of fun for so much angst. RA SUCKS. It just does.
I am still trying to decide what to do about my wagon train. It has become clear to me that I have to resume my healthy habits. They were doing more for me than I thought they were. Maybe I was just hoping they weren’t necessary. I don’t know if writing about them will just set me off again, or if it will be good for me. Maybe both? Maybe this angry phase is necessary to move out of the denial I keep thinking I’m not in. (Denying my denial?) Maybe I need to stay with it, move through it. Maybe it can unblock me, get me writing music again, get me feeling things I haven’t been letting myself feel. I also know that when I’m in a better place emotionally, I realize that I’m lucky that there are things I can do that actually make some difference in how I feel. So maybe I will resume writing about the wagon train.
Just not tonight.