It's a bit cliche to say that life has its ups and downs. But most people would agree -- it does. Add a new dimension into your life -- such as arthritis or another illness -- and the ups and downs can feel like you are on a perpetual seesaw.
The ups and downs of living with arthritis are the most difficult aspect of arthritis to grasp. Specific arthritis symptoms -- such as pain, stiffness, redness and warmth -- are tangible, understandable, and explainable. But the variable nature of chronic arthritis is nearly impossible to explain to others who do not live with the disease and frustrating for the person who does.
Can't Put Two Good Days Together
There is a lot of great advice out there for arthritis patients -- pace your activities, manage your disease the best you can, surround yourself with emotional support, don't let the disease define you.
But there is little, other than your own experience, that can guide you through the ups and downs of living with chronic arthritis. Imagine a day when you feel your pain is well-controlled, you feel well-rested, productive, and in charge of your life. Imagine other days that are just the opposite -- your pain is not well-controlled, you are fatigued, can't concentrate enough to get much done, and your disease is controlling your life.
It goes without saying that you would do whatever you could to have more good days than bad. But at times, even with you doing all the right things, the disease disappoints.
Best Laid Plans
Perhaps the biggest frustration comes when you plan out activities well ahead of time. Even with planning and preparation, when the time comes, you can't pull it off. On the day of a planned activity, your arthritis symptoms flare up or you are just too tired to carry out the plan. There is only one bit of advice regarding best laid plans -- know that it is going to happen from time to time -- that plans can't be carried out. Know this and accept it. It's part of living with arthritis.
Saving Chores for the Up Days
It makes sense that you should save bigger chores or projects for the days you feel better. The problem with this is that since you can never be certain of when or how many "up days" you will have, too much gets saved and it becomes unmanageable.
Once you fall behind on chores or other projects, you have to work hard to not become overwhelmed by what is still not done and what's left to do.
The Seesaw Effect of Living With Arthritis
Since there is so little predictability tied to living with arthritis, a seesaw is a perfectly appropriate analogy. On a seesaw, you are either up, down, or in balance. To maintain the balance with arthritis:
- Realize you will have ups and downs with arthritis.
- Adjust and adapt to those moments that bring you down.
- Realize that while arthritis does not define you as a person, it defines your life.
- Battle the unpredictability of arthritis with flexibility.
Flexibility is essential to living well with arthritis. Allow yourself to be flexible. Don't consider flexibility giving in to the disease or giving up. Instead, look at flexibility as a survival technique. Being flexible is a must-do.