Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Getting Past Feeling A Hundred and Four

One thing I have learned about living with chronic illness is that there are a myriad of reasons and ways that we can feel significantly older than our physical age. Oh, I can generally ease along in a 10 or so year range from my own, sticking with the 40's and 50's for a good long while but with the onset of a bout of insomnia or flare, even a mini one, and then I start feeling older, and older, and older.

 More often than not it starts with the insomnia.  Then comes the extended stiffness that comes with pushing through the tired.  That brings on "new" (or- more) aches and pains which, speaking only for myself, causes me to walk more gingerly or use the affected area less, leading the areas taking the extra brunt to join the "symphony of Ow".  The more achy I become, the more I toss and turn.  The more I toss and turn, the less quality the sleep I am able to get becomes and the more I can feel the tired seeping through the muscles and joints and down deep into the bones.  Of course, the more achy and exhausted that I feel the older I feel.  By the peak, I am well past my 70's, 80's, 90's and into easing into my hundreds.

Just dealing with this cycle for the past, wow, coming up on 7 years now, has taught me that the best thing for me is usually to sleep...A LOT.  Last week I spent more time resting than I have in an age.  It helped quite a bit until last night when once again sleep was elusive.  While I was up in the middle of the night I read an email article from Arthritis Today that discusses a study that found....are you ready for this?  Are you sitting down?  More than 40% of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis DON'T EXERCISE!  Can you tell that this article annoyed the daylights out of me?  They concluded that:

"Unfortunately, there is the widespread myth that people with arthritis need to rest,” says Lee, who believes that some patients still think resting their joints is the best route. “Patients don’t have to meet the CDC guidelines, but they should be as physically active as possible.”

The study also found that inactivity was closely related to two factors: motivation to participate (in other words, whether a person believed he was able to participate in physical activity) and a belief in the benefits of physical activity. People who lacked strong motivation for physical activity, and people who lacked a strong belief in the benefits of exercise were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to be inactive than those who had strong motivation or held strong beliefs."

What floored me was that there is no mention in this "study" that perhaps the reason that we don't exercise is because, well, it flat out hurts!

While I am rather disgusted with this whole article, it does bring up a small point.  I know that when I do push through and keep active, it can slow down that feeling of rapid aging.  Oh- it doesn't stop it, but it does help to get through the days.  Now, I am not saying that I should be taking an aerobics class or out training for a 5k; but a little gentle yoga to stretch out the muscles or walking in the therapy pool at the Y (it's danged cold out!) or even a little dancing can keep me just limber enough to get through the day and give me enough energy to keep my mind engaged when it feels like it should be a fuzzy mess.   The challenge (at least for me) is to gather enough energy to actually get moving when all you feel like doing is hibernating.

Thankfully, physical exercise is not the only way that I can pull myself out of feeling older than my days.  I find that one of the biggest keys for me is to push the positivity.  In fact, when I am extremely worn down, it almost takes mainlining it like a drug.  As I lay there, a puppy on either side of me, I make sure that I have a book, or three,  that will make me happy.  It could be a sweet romance, it could be one of the Chicken Soup books, it could be anything- as long as it makes me smile. I surround myself with pictures of people that I love, and keep my phone close so that I can talk to them.  I keep a pad close by- either my iPad or just a pad of paper and a pencil- and as I think of things I am blessed with, when I think of things I am grateful for, I put the words down; because words have power.  I let myself sleep at will but when I am awake, I absolutely refuse to allow myself to wallow.  I let myself have a bit of a snit and then I tell myself that it's time to Just.  Get.  Over.  It.  I remind myself as many times as it takes to give myself a kick start that while I may not have much control over the physical aspects of living with a chronic illness, I sure as heck can control the effects on my emotions, on my mind.

Before I know it, even though I am still tired and still achy,  I begin to feel more like myself.  At least on the inside.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I just found your blog and love this post. Any mention in that article that arthritis makes you tired and more sleepy than normal? By 8pm I'm dead, energy completely gone. Sometimes exercise with arthritis, especially during a flair, is simply dusting the living room or sweeping the kitchen floor.