Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Broken Record

I don't envy my husband.

I must sound like a broken record to him every few weeks. Because, dear readers, every few weeks I get a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis and I feel so horrible that I can barely move. My husband never complains. He holds me, brings me chocolate, and keeps the house running while I usually lay in bed and sleep and try to keep the tears at bay when the pain gets to be too much.

It's amazing how this disease can make you completely forget that there is such a thing as feeling good. I don't really remember what that's like. A few days a month I'll feel pretty good, but there's always a headache lingering at the back of my skull and there's always a crunching sound in my knees when I go up or down the stairs. Still, those are my great days. My mood is up, I can take a walk with my daughter, I can get tons of housework done, spend time with hubby, and feel great about life.

But then the bad days come, like today. My dreams last night were strange and bizarre, and I kept waking up with pain in my knees and my legs and my hands. I got up and took my daughter to school, trying not to cry at the pain in my knees, and by the time I got back home, all I wanted to do was sleep. So I did, for about five hours. When I woke up, I was still in pain, but I ate a lot of chocolate (probably too much) as a way to "self-medicate) and to cope. Maybe not the best idea considering my weight loss has stalled considerably in the past few months, but when I'm in bed all day because it hurts to move, I don't care about calories. I just care about getting through the day.

My daughter, bless her heart, asked me this morning if she was at risk for getting rheumatoid arthritis. Since my mom has it and I have it, plus the fact that auto-immune diseases run in our family, I told her that there was a good chance, at least from my side of the family. She wasn't keen to hear this. Who would be? She's watched me struggle. She's seen me grimace in pain. She knows how this disease affects me and the last thing she wants is to have it affect her, too. "How will I be able to go to band concerts?" she asked (she's really into going to watch live music). I told her she'll still be able to go to those even if she did have RA. But still, she's worried.

I'll be 39 next month. But some days, I feel like I'm 99. How, I think, will this body make it if I feel this badly now? The good news is that apparently auto-immune disease slow down as you get older. That's what my doctor said anyway, and I'm glad for that. But in the meantime, I've got to deal with it.

What's most galling about this disease is that it robs of me of time. I need time to work at the day job, time to exercise, time to spend with my family, time to travel, time to work on my novel, time to go to book signings for my history book, time to research for more books, time to go on dates with my husband, time to clean the house, time to spend with the Lord, time to sleep!

But when I'm out for the count, the pain makes it impossible to do a lot of those things. Focusing on a book is hard. Focusing on a movie is hard. The pain makes it hard to do much of anything but just somehow stay occupied.

This post doesn't say anything new and it's certainly not inspiring. I don't know that I'm complaining. Instead, I think I'm just venting. And we all need to do that every once in awhile, right? I've been pretty open about my health and certain parts of my life on this blog because I want people to know that even though life has some pretty intense struggles - and let's face it, we ALL have struggles - you're not alone. You're never alone.

And here's another thing I want to make clear: it's okay to vent. It's okay not to be positive and sunny all the time. It's okay to say, "This disease stinks and I feel awful and my feet hurt and I want to EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATE."

As a writer, you need to experience the good and the bad. But more importantly, as a human being, you need to experience the good and the bad. How else will you know how to relate to those who are struggling? How else will you know how to embrace joy when it comes into your life after a particularly rocky path? Life is about experiencing it all. That's why I usually dismiss all those "25 ways to be happier!" things floating around the Internet. Life isn't about being happier all the time. It's about experiencing everything - highs and lows and in-betweens. Just as you shouldn't want to be sad all the time, neither should you want to be happy all the time. Does that sound bizarre? Maybe. But for me, personally, that's how I feel. I can't know the full extent of the human experience if I'm constantly smiling and flitting through life thinking everything is wonderful and good and joyous. Because it isn't.

Sometimes, it just plains stinks. Like today. Sure, I look for the joy in the midst of trials. But I also deeply feel the trials I'm enduring. It forces me to think about life, about my faith. It forces me to turn to God when I'm at my lowest. And it forces me to realize that I'm not perfect, that my body isn't healthy, that I can't do it all.

There is something humbling about that.

So go. Embrace the good and the bad and everything in between. Be human. Be you.

11 comments:

  1. Oh, Melissa, I'm going to finish typing this comment and say a prayer for you. I've had to live through intense, some of it chronic, pain at various points of my life, and it is so hard to think about anything except making it through.
    If eating chocolate helps you make it through, it will help you be more present for your family and your work and your house later--so don't sweat it. And I think that being in pain gives us a special chance to be united with God--to be united to Him in His Passion as well as His joy makes our relationship with Him that much more meaningful. I guess that proves your point that life isn't all about happiness--because even God lived through the pain for us and following Him means we'll have trials of our own.
    That doesn't mean you can't lie in bed and ask Him to make it better!
    Thanks for your honesty in this post. I will, quite seriously, be spending a few minutes praying for you right now.

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    1. Faith, your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and understanding, and especially for your prayers. God bless you. :)

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  2. Anonymous7:35 PM

    You are amazing and you are handling you life and it's problems with a grace that puts the rest of us to shame. If you feel the need to hate the disease you have earned it and the need to vent is human. We all have to do that sometimes. God Bless and keep you and your family

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. :-)

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  3. "How else will you know how to relate to those who are struggling? How else will you know how to embrace joy when it comes into your life after a particularly rocky path? "

    So, so true. I'm very sorry to hear you're going through a rough patch with your health right now. I will definitely say a prayer for you. Having been there myself...it's very difficult. It requires great strength of mind and soul and spirit to keep one's head up despite it all. Simply take care of yourself as best as you can. The sun is usually around the corner somewhere. So long as you hang onto that hope, that God still has beautiful and marvellous things for you, you will be okay, but just don't ever let go of that thread!

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    1. Jen, how true it is, that God has beautiful and marvelous things still waiting! I am better today thanks to Him and thanks to the prayers of you all. I am very blessed. :)

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  4. I'm sorry to hear that you have had a bad flare-up. But venting is always good - along with the chocolate! God never promised a perfect happy life, but He promised to walk with us through the pain. And knowing that, we can embrace whatever He sends. I really feel for your daughter, watching you and knowing that she could suffer the same condition. But you are teaching her that despite pain and suffering you can still lead a rewarding and fulfilling life. A powerful lesson. When I pray for you, I will also pray for her.

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    1. J.T., you are so right! I am so very thankful that He is right here beside me. I've felt His presence and it is such a comfort. Thank you so much for your prayers. :)

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  5. I can only begin to imagine how hard this is... not just the day-to-day living with the pain but the knowing it doesn't necessarily end. I am so thankful you have a supportive family, and that you trust and lean on God. I don't know why God allows some to suffer so much more than others, but I do know he uses that to make us more like him, if we allow that. And you, in turn, can inspire and encourage others. Praying now for healing, hope, and endurance, and a joyful spirit even in the pain.

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    1. Thank you so much, Heidi. :) Hugs.

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  6. I've had a really tough 2014 so far, some very sad things. Deaths. And yet, this is so true - thank you! "Life isn't about being happier all the time. It's about experiencing everything - highs and lows and in-betweens. Just as you shouldn't want to be sad all the time, neither should you want to be happy all the time."

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