Walk a mile

Yesterday started out clear and cold, but by late afternoon, clotted clouds covered the sky. I didn't have to look out the window to know that, because the waves of exhaustion and low-grade fever started rolling over me at around 11 am. As soon as that first burning sensation in my ears and eyelids hit, I knew that a low-pressure system was moving through. Most of the prevalent information that is available insists that people with rheumatoid arthritis have never been proved to suffer unduly during rainy or cold weather. The prevailing information is wrong.

Yesterday's exhaustion was debilitating. I was at work when it hit, and found myself in danger of nodding off in the middle of some critical tasks. I consumed coffee and went for a walk through the building, hoping to wake myself up. It helped a bit, but when I came back to my office and settled in again, sleep washed over me until I felt as though I was drowning. I put aside the bank reconciliations I was doing and instead, picked up some work that required less concentration and acuity. I made some necessary phone calls and did some research, took notes on my findings, and prepared a report that didn't require numbers. This kind of adaptation requires creative thinking, good time-management skills, and an understanding supervisor and co-workers, but is possible. I really just needed to go home and go to bed. If I had, I would have slept for five or six hours, but I would have awakened feeling better, and my work today would have been easier and much more efficient. 

Because I didn't rest the way I needed to yesterday, I was in a lot of pain last night and today. Around two o'clock this afternoon, I stretched and something in my upper back popped; after that, it was hard to breathe until the muscle relaxant kicked in and took the edge off my tension. My left shoulder still hurts and I can't use that arm to lift even a glass of water. I had to use my cane today - more on the cane later; suffice it to say that I hate the ugly thing and deplore its necessity - but I had so much pain in my right hand, wrist, and elbow, that I felt like I was trading one type of discomfort for another. In spite of the lingering weariness and the pain, I managed to get a lot done today. I am learning how to push through it. I don't know if that is good or bad.

It is midnight. Tomorrow is Saturday. I have to work for a short while tomorrow morning. I expect that the rest of the day will be spent sleeping, if I can relax enough to sleep. This is the catch-22 of rheumatoid arthritis; you desperately need rest, but if you don't get it when your body demands it, the resultant pain keeps you from being able to rest or sleep well for days to come. It is a vicious cycle and it is self-feeding. I can't think of any way to maintain a normal work-schedule and still get the rest that I desperately need. Some people just don't understand how difficult it is to keep any sense of normalcy while dealing with chronic pain and exhaustion. They try, but only experience can really bring understanding. And I hope that no-one ever has to walk a mile in my shoes - they'd hobble, hitch, and limp a lot; their joints would pop and their muscles would throb. At the end of the mile, they'd feel like collapsing in a little puddle of fatigue. I wouldn't wish this kind of hurt or weariness on anyone.


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