Since I've been diagnosed with RA, several people have asked me what RA pain feels like. Well, really, it's a crap-shoot. It depends on the day and the relative reason for the pain. Obviously, the pain is all caused by the disease, but sometimes the triggers are different. Stress causes pain. Over-work causes pain. Exhaustion causes pain. Today, I am having pain and I can't pinpoint what brought it on. I have been careful not to push myself too hard this weekend, so I know it isn't physical exertion. But since this pain is keeping me awake when I desperately need sleep, I thought I'd try to describe it.

Imagine that deep within your joints, there lives a colony of tiny demons. These evil little bastards love nothing more than to torture; they live for the sole purpose of creating exquisite agony. Sometimes they attack your joints with blowtorches and you feel as though you are burning from the inside out. Sometimes they go after you with hammers and chisels; each stroke of the hammer elicits a needle-sharp blast of pain. And sometimes, like today, they take little crowbars and do everything in their power to pry your body apart, starting at the joints. That is exactly how it feels inside my hands, feet, and knees.

Doctors want you to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten. One represents no pain at all; ten represents the worst pain you can imagine. The numbers between range from mild to moderate to holy God, just give me a hacksaw. I bet you think I am exaggerating.

I'm not.

I have given birth. Twice. I have had kidney stones, gallstones, and broken bones. None of that compares with the feeling of your knuckles contorting on their own, beneath the skin, as the synovium thickens and becomes inflamed. Since I've been writing this post, a knot the size of a small pebble has extruded from the knuckle of my left middle finger. At first, I thought it was probably fluid-filled, but it isn't. It is a firm nodule of inflamed tissue, and it hurts like bloody hell.

I am so tired. There are so many things I want, and need, to do tomorrow. Church, homework, lawn-mowing, a committee meeting, laundry, house-cleaning, helping my daughter with an important school project. I hope that before morning, the demons will subside and yield the battlefield for one more day. I know that it takes time for medications to consistently work, and that there's a good chance that after a few more weeks, nights like this will be few and far between. One thing about crazy-intense pain - it sure makes you grateful for those times of relatively low misery. I'd trade the RA for a gallbladder full of rocks any day, or even a few kidney stones. At least those kinds of pain are finite; they have a cause and there is a foreseeable ending.

Remember the tiny joint-dwelling demons? Imagine the infernal little devils attacking at will, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Imagine that your best defenses only work sometimes, and when they don't, you are at the mercy of your enemies. Now, imagine living that way, off and on, for the rest of your life.

I concede the front tonight. The white flag is lifted, and I can't fight anymore. Maybe tomorrow will bring - if not victory - then at least better things.


  1. I love you. I fell in love with your words the moment you spoke and continue today with what you wrote.


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