I wish on these beautiful sunny spring days in San Francisco, that I could be smiling, pain-free and enjoying this weather. But of course, the past couple of days have been filled with overwhelming pains and aches — and I can’t seem to figure out why! This is part of the unbearable and frustrating chronic pain that comes with rheumatoid arthritis, and it doesn’t just stick to my joints sometimes.
To explain to you a little about what this pain feels like, imagine inescapable pressure and stabbing pains all over your body, but especially in your joints that you use all the time — this is an RA flare-up. My wrists, ankles, feet, fingers and neck are swollen to the point that my rings don’t fit and my shoes are tight. This morning I could barely pick up my coffee mug for a sip without using both hands for stability. My knees flared up while I was walking to the bus on my way to work (which is literally 3 blocks from my doorstep…sad). As I’m sitting in my desk chair in front of my computer at work, my spine and neck are crying out in pain because they have to hold up my body, but just don’t have the strength today. And my wrists feel like they are getting sawed off while I try to type on my keyboard or use my mouse. Even my eyelids are heavy from the exhaustion. These are the kind of days I just want to break down and cry until I fall asleep so I forget about the pain. But instead, I am at work and writing about it (so consider this a slight venting session to help me cope with this flare-up today).
At least I don’t have a migraine on top of this full-body attack today. Last week, probably because of the stress of the past two weeks with work, conferences, doctors appointments and out-of-town visitors (coupled with being a woman), I had an unfortunate 30-hour migraine. It felt like my head was in a vice and it kept getting tighter and tighter. I think it was probably the worst feeling anyone can ever have (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but for real). I was dizzy and cranky all day at work and just wanted the pain to stop and this day to be over. But the worst part was that my head was throbbing even through the night, so I barely got any sleep on top of it. Migraines are certainly dreadful and sometimes they are just an added *bonus* to my chronic joint pain.
Last week I also found out from my rheumatologist that I have a nasty neurotoxin floating around in my brain. Sounds like a horror movie, huh? Basically, I have been exposed to something (probably from those Muni buses that I ride every day) and my body didn’t fight off the infection that developed in my lungs (you know, the common cold symptoms). So now I have a neurotoxin — symptoms being fatigue (I have been sleeping 13 hours a night if I can get it), dizziness (usually in the afternoon), lack of clarity/memory (great, just what I need when I’m dealing with a dozen clients in a day), and lack of appetite (nope, that one hasn’t started yet). Next step in this exciting journey of beating an infection with no immune system is that I get to take hard core antibiotics and some other powders full of minerals to help flush this toxin out. I have a feeling this is not going to be a fun detox in the next few months.
You know when you feel the flu coming on and you feel like crap and achey all over? Well, that’s how I feel during flare-ups. It feels lie I am coming down with a bug and I just have to wait for it to go its course. Some days I wonder how I am not just in bed all day because that’s where I really want to be. But I can’t let the pain win — I can be stubborn sometimes, I know. But in this case, it’s a good thing because I will not give in to this chronic illness. I am fighting until we figure this all out.