March 10, 2016

When Your Body Betrays You

Have you ever felt like your body betrayed you? I have.

I know decreased strength and aches and pains are normal parts of aging, but I never expected to feel like I was falling apart at thirty-four. And it's not the morning stiffness or feeling achy in the evening that bothers me. It's the alarming increase in clumsiness and seeming inability to hold onto anything some days I find frightening.

My doctor is almost certain I have RA. The only reason I haven't been formally diagnosed is because I've yet to have a specific blood test run to look for a telltale protein marker for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is you have to wait several months after having to take steroidal medications, and I've had a lot of respiratory infections in the past year. Plus why shell out the money for a test that will legally peg me as having a pre-existing condition when I plan to treat it with diet and lifestyle changes as long as possible? The only good having that formal diagnosis would do is allow for prescription medications and surgeries. If I have RA, it's still in the early stages. The couple nodules that have been found are small and out of the way, and while my fingers aren't as straight as they used to be, the twisting hasn't started causing a hinderance as of yet.

So far, going on a diet designed to lower inflammation, doing some low impact exercise, getting an extra hour or so of sleep each night, and using anti-inflammatory creams or tablets as needed has helped. I've been in a flair for the past couple of months, which I've come to expect when the weather is as cold and damp as it's been of late. I've hurt more during the winter months for a good six or seven years now, but the pain and swelling is significantly less this year than it's been in the past. I credit the measures I implemented in the middle of 2014 for that improvement. 

Last winter was better overall than the ones before it, and this year is better still. Perhaps it's partly because this winter has been milder than last. Perhaps the effects of avoiding pro-inflammatory foods and actions is cumulative. I'm not sure, but I'm grateful either way.

I hurt much less this year, but there are still days when I get frustrated. Last Thursday was one of those days. It was bitterly cold and rainy all morning, so I wasn't surprised to feel achy. Still, movement helps keep the pain and stiffness at bay, so I got up and hobbled along until I didn't notice it anymore. I got the chores done, a bit slower than I wanted but still, and by the time I was done, I felt pretty good. Then I got an afternoon cup of coffee to warm up and get re-energized for writing.

I at least made it back to my desk this time before losing control of my hands. I'd sat down and taken a few sips before I walloped the cup instead of picking it up. Coffee splashed all over the desk, just missing the keyboard by sheer luck and a couple millimeters. I got that cleaned up, and when I went to get something else to drink, I noticed we were out of tea. I made some more, and then I promptly dropped a packet into the pitcher.

We have one of those jugs with a screw on cap, so I couldn't just reach in and pluck the packet from the top before it sank. I tried using tongs to get it out, but the tea was too strong to see it. I ended up having to pour the entire container out because I couldn't hold on to one stupid packet long enough to finish emptying it and set it aside.

In that moment, I truly hated my body. It had nothing to do with the extra pounds I still carry even after almost eight years of constant dieting. It wasn't because of the frog like features I see, and detest, every time I look in the mirror. It wasn't even because of the thinning hair, a few grays, or any other myriad of flaws society and advertisements scream at us need fixing every day of every week. No, I hated my body because it felt like it was betraying me.

My children aren't even close to being grown, and I'm already having trouble completing the simplest tasks some days. I learned the hard way last year I'll probably never be able to play with them the way I'd always envisioned I'd be as a mother back when I was their age. At moments like that one last week, I worry I won't even be able to hold my grandchildren for fear of dropping them!

Yet what can I do?

If only it were just pain! Pain I can handle. Pain can be treated, and I've grown so used to it, I feel weird when it's gone. You expect to not be at your best when you can feel the discomfort and weakness. How can you anticipate weakness when you feel fine?

In the past year, it's been the good days that have gotten me. My hip wasn't hurting at all when it slipped inside the joint and dumped me over sideways last February. My hands felt good last spring break when I attempted to show the girls how to play on monkey bars and instead fell and scared them away from trying at all. They felt fine every single time I've dropped, flung, or knocked something without meaning to the last couple years. How do you compensate for or treat something you can't sense?

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