Life with Arthritis

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, the day breaks to find us…well, okay, not pain-free exactly, but with minimal pain and stiffness. Don’t you dare waste that day…get out there and live!

Some of the best advice I ever got was from a drunken Englishman, who was trying to talk me into running off with him (this was back in my younger, firmer days). In his thickest Cockney, he said, “You only go around once, gull…gawd-damnit! Live it!”

I took his advice. I turned down his offer. Still, it’s hard to “seize the day” when it feels as if your body has “seized” you. Morning stiffness and pain flatters the couch and makes the TV seem very appealing. We all have days like that…and during major flares, rest may be the only answer.

But every once in a while it happens: you are awakened by the alarm clock and not by pain. Cautiously, you sit up and place your feet on the floor without any problem. Not only can you walk without a cane, you are walking, not limping! Sure, there is some pain, some discomfort—perhaps a “3” on a scale from 1-10—but for the most part, you feel like…well, you. This day is special, so don’t take it for granted!

Remember the Bad Days

This is when keeping a journal can really come in handy. Find the entry of your last flare. Chances are, you will have either written about what you wish you could do or what you weren’t able to do at the time. Now is your chance!

Tend the Neglected

Who is the friend that you’ve canceled out on the most? Call him or her up and make plans to go shopping, see a movie, throw darts at his favorite pub…and if at all possible, make it your treat. Patient friends are rare and deserve to be acknowledged.

Quality Time With the Kiddies

There are so many times when our kids want us to toss the ball around or help them make cookies and we have to say no. During your flares, keep a list of all the projects your children ask you to do…and then save them for days like this!

Quality Time With Your Partner

To put it as delicately as possible, RA can make us too sore for physical intimacy. After you’ve finished putting that model car together for your kids, send them to bed and show your partner just how well you feel!

Get That Chore Over With

That unpainted room…the ripped sash on the bedroom window…that leaky faucet…chores that you’ve been putting off until you felt better. Go ahead and get them over with—tending your responsibilities improves your self-esteem, which, some feel can actually improve your health. On the other hand…

Leave Some Time to Play

Sure, it’s nice to cross those chores off of your list, but if you don’t have any fun, you’ll be sorry later on…unless you are one of those freaks who actually enjoys housework/home improvement (and if so, come see me…my house will leave you in a state of ecstasy).

Tell Others How Well You Are Feeling

Even the bravest of us complain from time to time…probably a lot more than we realize. Do your friends and family a favor by telling them when you are feeling well, too.

Help Someone Who is Not Having a Good Day

Go visit someone who is sick or out of sorts. Because of your own experiences, you’ll probably be able to empathize with them better than the average person…and you’ll feel good about yourself, too.

Get Outside!

Unless there is a hurricane, a tornado, an ice storm/blizzard or some other nasty act of God, try to get outside at some point during the day. After repeated flares, staying inside can become an unhealthy habit; it is also an ideal breeding ground for depression. Go outside and just look at the sky…even on gray days, its sheer beauty can make you glad you’re alive.

Return to your Journal

Write, in detail, of how well you feel and of all the things you were able to accomplish. The next time you are having a flare that feels like forever, flip back to this entry to remind yourself that flares—like most things—are temporary.