Until I looked at this photo in my computer, I didn’t remember the date. My camera kindly marks that for me. I did, however, remember exactly how I felt when this photo was taken. This was the 4th of July, 2007, and I was feeling miserable. Sometimes I think we need to try to be an inspiration to one another, and sometimes we need empathy. I strive to be more on the inspirational side, but this is not really one of those posts. Today, I’m setting out to have a “been there” RA story. We’ll call it a small pouring out of my RA soul.
This is our back yard. We got an inflatable pool that summer, and Cavan loved it. He’s about a year and a half old in this picture. This was one of those days that I couldn’t sit down and play with him. My knees didn’t bend, my hands and shoulders hurt, my feet and knees hurt, and my lower back (that’s a whole other post) was killing me to the point that just standing there was torture. I was about 185 pounds in this picture. I think I needed help stepping over the edge of the pool. Still, I stood there while he splashed around, close enough that I could help if he fell, but relatively unable to interact with him or get down on his level. I didn’t know my husband was snapping pictures of us.
Sometimes RA really sucks. Days like this were challenging and depressing to say the least. I had a ton of these days after Cavan was born. From what I read, most postpartum flares last around 6 months. Mine lasted closer to 6 years, with 2 additional autoimmune conditions diagnosed in that time. Still, I wouldn’t change a single day of that torture for the beautiful son I now have.
RA has taken a lot from me. We wanted more kids, but given my health we waited a long time before trying again. By then I was “older” and unsuccessful. I worry some day that Cavan will think he made me flare and have some guilt about it. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just my body and my life, and part of what has fallen on my plate. I have some functions in my body that are likely never going to come back. I’ll probably never run again, never squat, my left arm will likely never straighten at the elbow again, yada, yada, yada.
I think it was sometime in 2010 that I started feeling like I was crazy. I had been feeling so bad for so long that I thought maybe I didn’t want to get well. Maybe I was making myself feel this bad, etc… As my husband said, “It’s time to see Gloria.” Gloria was my psychologist. I had been seeing her off and on for probably 10 years. She’s fantastic, and I’m not sure what I would do without her. She’s really good at drawing things out of me that I don’t necessarily see as plainly as I should. What I found myself saying was that I wasn’t crazy, I did want to feel better, I needed to push my doctors harder, and I needed to make a list of things I wanted to try to make my RA better.
My list included things like going to physical therapy, figuring out how to exercise, experimenting with my diet, getting my teeth/gums super healthy (something that has been shown to help RA symptoms), try green tea, fish oil, and probiotics. So, I started on that path. At the time, I didn’t want to change my medication protocol, as I was still wanting more kids. Physical therapy was a miracle and helped my back and my spirit immensely. That led to exercise therapy, which helped me get stronger and lose about 12 pounds. Green tea was not my favorite, but I was drinking it. I think it helped my RA, but made my thyroid eye disease worse. I tried some dietary changes (like going gluten-free for a while, which didn’t help). For Christmas, 2011, my mother-in-law got me books on the Paleo diet, something she showed me an article about. I was interested in trying it, but I thought it was too hard for me. Well, I started it January 9, 2012, and it’s been life changing (see this post: http://rapaleo.momswithra.org/wp/?p=6). It took me a while to get to a good tooth cleaning, but I had that done a couple of months ago. I’m not sure it did anything, but my teeth are all beautiful now!
Anyway, I think my nature is always to be thinking about my health and a way to make it better. I lost that for a while, but I didn’t stop looking for help to dig myself out. Despite our deepest darkest RA moments, we make choices to wallow in it or keep fighting it. I choose to keep fighting it with everything I’ve got. What I try might not be right for others with RA, but at the very least I hope it inspires people to keep fighting. Hmmm, maybe this post had a smidge of inspiration after all. What are YOU doing to feel better?