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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anxiety and RA

     I have come to believe that everyone will at some point have to deal with anxiety.  When coupled with RA or other chronic diseases that are almost daily testing our ability to cope, it really does deliver a "double punch" that really is miserable!  
Lately I have been asking myself what in the world is happening to me that I cannot seem to "settle down"?  I have been experiencing relentless nausea and arm weakness for some time (a couple of months off and on) and naturally attributed it to my RA and/or the medications I take.  That said there is always this sense of doom when the symptoms start and I have to really fight to stay in control so I don't have a full blown panic attack over this feeling of impending death or a major health crisis!
     So, I wonder if what is going on is really anxiety disorder or does the fact that RA is so unpredictable and has so many secondary disorders associated with it account for the feelings.  Make no mistake, the symptoms are VERY real and so it seems no amount of positive self-talk, deep breathing, etc. relieves it in the moment.  So, now I wonder, am I a hypochondriac?  Has RA given me yet another "gift"? 
     Being the A type person that I am, I feel the need to reflect on this and derive some answers that may eventually lead to improvement.  I have had a lot of change lately - trips, anticipated trips, new medications, etc. and I tend to stress when the scales tip to far in the change direction!  As much as I think I can juggle 100 things (and I can!) I still find myself burying my anxiety and plunging ahead.
     And so just like Anxiety Girl, something that may seem meaningless to someone else becomes a major issue for me and I can indeed "Jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound".   I am trying to manage this by taking a closer look at what is happening around me when these thoughts are strongest and see if I can develop some strategies to relieve the pressure and anxiety.
     I want to embrace the ups and downs of life not just tolerate them and that is the challenge for so many of us with RA.  We already face so many unknowns that it does not take much more than a gentle nudge to bring on anxiety.   
     I do believe that grabbing on with gusto to some message(s) that resonate and repeating them to yourself is helpful because you truly do begin to assimilate the thought behind it.  So finding one that makes you read it twice is a good sign.  For those of us coping with difficulties I like the one works for me.  I am an optimist even at my most sad or anxious and so I will remember and repeat that although life may not always be fair it is good!
     My youngest son has been home with us for about 10 days and it has been so wonderful to have him here on a daily basis...we shop, we laugh, we eat together as a family again and it is so delightful that when he leaves in a day or two that "change" will be tough to handle.  That said would I ever give up any of the time we are now sharing?  Not for a minute! 
Luckily I will see him and my other two sons in just a few weeks as we will all be attending a college football game together.  The fact they live so far away (but at least all together in the same place) is really hard for my husband and me but we look forward to a time when we all live closer together.  My husband and I believe family is what life is all about, what happiness is made up of and so we relish the times we spend with our sons. I am working hard to stay healthy so that I can continue to enjoy them as the years pass.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vacation, beaches, Waterfire and family!

     So it has been awhile since I have posted.  I have many good things to report which is sooo nice to be able to share.  Best of all, my reason for not posting for so long is that I have been on VACATION at my brothers home in RI.  We went to the beach, biked a bit, shopped a lot, ate too much and laughed and smiled and talked and talked.  We even went to a wonderful zoo that I had not been to in over 20 years and they had a carousel that I just had to ride!
     Two of my sons were able to join us this trip for part of the vacation as did a good friend from home.  My dad was up from Florida for the entire trip and my husband was there for several days after visiting with his mom and sisters in TN.  We had our beach days which are by far my favorite!
     It was just so restorative to have that time together to relax.  I had the chance to spend a lot of time on the beach which for me is like a tonic!  The sound of the surf, the smell of the salt air, the warm sand between my toes and the cool water washing over me just equates with serenity for me.
     Add my Kindle, a diet pepsi, a beach chair and I am all set.  I am convinced I was a beach bum in a previous life!  Every time I set foot on a beach I am transported to place where cares disappear, pain is erased, my mind is clear and calm and I don't have a care in the world.
     There is nothing more enjoyable to me then sitting on a beach chair, toes wedged in the sand, book in hand, surf loudly crashing and gulls singing in the background as I read....everything else disappears, including RA and joint pain and decisions associated with its management...if only for those few hours spent in this place of peace and beauty.
     Another fun event we attended while in RI was something called Waterfire which is tough to fully explain but suffice it to say that in the man-made canal that runs through the city of Providence, pots of wood are arranged and at dusk they are lit, music surrounds the city, vendors and entertainment are everywhere. We love to attend this at least once a year.  Check out this website to learn more and if you are there in the summer they have it every other weekend! 
    It is truly a marvel and remarkably easy to get into and out of the city which is such a nice change from the traffic that one often has to deal with in cities where major events are held.
     Back to health related numb face is healing at last and so I would say that I now have about 60-70% of the feeling back so that is great news!  Also, my RA seems to be in a somewhat quiet (SHHH or it will hear us) state at the moment thanks (I hope) to the new medicine, Simponi, which I started last month.  
On my first day back from vacation I gave myself the second shot with some help from my son, Reilly.  For some odd reason I was a bit nervous (not at all sure why since I gave myself injections for 5 years with Humira prior to Remicade and the infusion procedure) but he was there to keep me calm and so it went fine.  I really love the autoinjector device that we use now!  What a breeze.  And for the second time I literally felt nothing!  
     If not for the dot of blood on my leg and the yellow indicator on the device I would doubt I had injected properly.  Such a nice change from the old fashioned syringes.  I am still on the corticosteriod (4mg) which I will probably remain on for at least 3 to 6 months till we see if Simponi will work...fingers crossed - thanks Reilly for crossing so many limbs on my behalf as we rode home to Rutland the other day :) I am sure it will effect the outcome!  
     The very best and hottest news from my perspective is that  I am not too stiff from all of the changes and driving and packing and unpacking, etc. which is a nice surprise.  My family was so wonderful to me this trip, helping at every turn when I was not too stubborn to accept and my brother cooked, entertained and generally hosted us all to the point I felt like a queen!  He is the best brother on the face of the earth and I am blessed to have him close enough that we can be together often. 
That is him on the far right next to my son, Brian, his Godson.  My Dad was with us this trip too, up from Florida and at 85 he is far more agile than me, playing tennis every day he can get someone to join him!
The man is a marvel.  He seems to go backwards in the aging process!  I hope I am even slightly that lucky.  This year he was here for two weeks so we had a nice, long visit and lots of time to spend together. I am home and back to work and feeling stronger and refreshed and ready to get back into the day to day management of RA and life in general.  The take away from this post is this - It is simply amazing how much you can gain from some time away....It need not be a formal vacation but even just a day or two away from the routine provides a fresh perspective that is critical to the day to day coping needs we have with a chronic disease like RA.  
By taking the "bull by the horns" we are taking charge of our own disease management and that goes so far in keeping our heads on straight, our minds clear and our goal of successful management not only possible but completely attainable.  I remain a firm believer that not only does a positive attitude contribute significantly to the successful management of RA but is a key to truly thriving not just surviving with RA.