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Learning from experience isn’t as easy as it sounds

Posted Apr 24 2012 12:00am
This past weekend I found myself struggling with a very painful and exhausting flare-up.  It has been quite some time since I have encountered a flare this bad so if anything, it was long overdue.  The extreme exhaustion kept me in bed for two days.  Drifting in and out of sleep, I wanted to write down what I was feeling down mostly because I knew that if I did I would feel less depressed but I was too tired and too weak to even check emails.

I am not sure what I did differently to ignite this flare. I was trying to figure out if I made a bad food choice, if I had gotten enough sleep or if I was unusually stressed.  I wanted to pin point what caused the flare so that I would learn from experience.  I also wanted to track my progress during the flare so I can try different options the next time a flare came along.  However, I was not able to that because I good barely stay awake long enough to think about it.  A part of me was too busy giving into the flare to recognize what I was doing wrong.  All I can tell you is that it was a rollercoaster of pain, fatigue and depressed emotions.

During this experience, I did make a mental note of the things that stood out for me. The first day, I just felt like I couldn’t get comfortable and I didn’t want to be touched. Even my sheets touching my skin made me nervous.  By the time evening rolled around, I was just felt like I was coming down with something.  I became extremely exhausted and couldn’t fall asleep. By the time the weekend rolled around, every joint in my body was inflamed, I was extremely exhausted to the point where I couldn’t even stay awake, and had a fever and chills.  If not for the joint pain, I would have thought I had the flu.

Between the pain and fatigue, the depression was evident. At first, I started to feel sad but by the time the worst of the flare came, I felt defeated.  Here is the thing, I can say over and over that I will not let the flare win but it always does.  I can take try to take lessons from the last flare and try to make things better the next time around but it seems every flare is different so coping becomes hard and even my best laid plans fail.

By the time I realized what was happening, the flare had reached its peak with all the different types of pain you can think of: stabbing, burning, aching, etc.   My muscles and my joints seemed to be equally affected. The extreme exhaustion would put me to sleep easily but the pain would wake me up.  I got to the point where I only got up to use the bathroom because the pain and fatigue were too much to tolerate. To make things worse, my whole body was under attack.  My eyes were extremely dry and blurry, my face was sore and sagging and even my gums and teeth hurt.

I eventually found relief as the flare subsided.  I swear it was like going through a dark tunnel feeling tired, weary and hungry.  It was not until I saw the light at the end of the tunnel that I realized I was getting better.  The pain subsided, the swelling decreased and I had more energy.  I still have a lot of pain (stabbing pain) and stiffness in my joints, especially my hands, wrists, feet and ankles. What is interesting to note is that the flare started to subside, it was like had a burst of energy but I am still feeling a bit tired. I erred on the side of caution with the energy burst because I was afraid to repeat the entire process.  I am also still aching but the worst of the flare is gone.

All these years living with rheumatoid arthritis, you would think I would learn from experience but I really have not.  This flare was one of the worst I have had since the first year I was diagnosed so I am still reeling from it.  My hands still hurt as do my feet and ankles.  It hurt to put my seatbelt on this morning and it has been a very long time since I have had any major issues with my hands. I am slowly but surely getting back to some kind of normal.  Have I learned from this experience? I hope but I won’t know how much until the next flare comes around.

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