When people see me, they don’t see the extreme amount of pain that I am in. This pain has a trickle down effect that has been going on quite a bit lately. It starts with the physical pain from the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) that has been flaring up all over my body lately. The pain that feels like it is taking over every last inch of me, to the point that just walking around Target or the two blocks to the grocery store hurts with every step I take. Where I lay on the couch and let the dishes pile up or the laundry sit undone and taking over my closet because it hurts too much to do those chores. When I sit on the couch curled up in a ball in hopes that the pain will eventually subside. The thing is no one knows the pain is there except for me because on the outside I took totally normal, and to be honest, most times I won’t let on how bad the pain really is. I will just slap on a smile and say I am fine or that I am sore, but good. To some degree it is true, but to a larger degree it is a lie because I don’t want to be that person that people see as always being a downer because of their health.
This isn’t to say that I don’t ever have good days, because I do, and I try to make the most of them. I will go on a hike to a ghost town, or spend time with friends, or even be up to do something spontaneous and slightly adventurous. I enjoy being outside exploring the city or venturing out to places outside of Seattle, but lately, I just want to stay close to home. Close to where I can shut myself off and cry when the pain is bad. Where I can wear soft clothes (a.k.a. my PJ’s) because they feel good on my skin and I don’t have to worry about if my hair is done or if I have cried off my make up.
The physical pain trickles it’s way down to mental and emotional pain. Where those thoughts creep in that no one is ever going to want to date me or fall in love with me because I would rather be curled up watching Netflix and not being super outdoorsy and active all the time. Or because I have a condition that could get way worse at some point and they may not want to get stuck with a girl like that. I end up canceling plans and bailing on things because I am too sore and the thought of putting that much exertion or being outside in the extreme heat makes me cringe and I don’t have the mental capacity to slap on a happy face and join in. There is the fear that eventually friends will stop inviting me to things because I bail at the last minute. I end up isolating myself when I don’t necessarily want to, but can’t face being real with people. I don’t speak up about what is going through my mind because I feel like I will become a burden to people. It quietly swirls around in my head until it eventually comes out in a bucket of tears.
I don’t think I really realized how much the effects of having a chronic illness and chronic pain would affect all areas of my life. I have people tell me that I am brave or that I am so strong for living life with RA, but honestly I don’t feel brave and I definitely don’t feel strong. I feel tired and I feel weak. I will have people ask me how I see God show up or how He is working through this and even though logically I know He is, a lot of the time it is really hard to see that through all of the pain. Some days I feel like I am living a lie just to feel “normal”. I used to put the effort in to do my hair and makeup because I was taught to always put my best face forward, but now I do it so I don’t look exhausted and in hopes that I will feel more confident about myself and my appearance because honestly, I really don’t anymore. I have become very self conscious about my appearance, way more so than I used to be. I have noticed my face has gotten rounder and when I am in photos all I see is my “fat face”. I cringe when I know people are taking a photo of me and I have to remind myself to suck it up, it isn’t the end of the world.
I live with the constant knowledge that I could wake up one morning and the RA could be a lot worse than it is right now. That even though my life has already changed to some degree because of it, it could change a lot more. I wouldn’t say that it is a constant fear, but it is always there in the back of my mind, just kind of looming like a dark cloud. And if that isn’t a reminder enough, there is the lovely moment and look of pity when you tell someone you have RA. Sometimes that is the worst part of being open about life with people. Honestly, I don’t tell people because I want their pity, I just want to be open with people about my life in general. I guess that is why I wrote all of this. That and the mental and emotional part has definitely taken it’s toll this week due to some pretty severe physical pain I have been experiencing. This post definitely was not without it’s tears. It is scary to be open and vulnerable, especially about something like this
Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst