July marks the month that we Americans celebrate our independence as a country. For me, it is also a celebration of independence from rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Last year at the end of July, I began my journey of using biologics. Getting to the point of accepting biologics in my life was not an easy one. In fact, I fought the use of biologics for years. I wanted to be able to work through my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms without the use of medications. I stopped taking my Methotrexate and Plaquenil and went on a two year strike from all medications. It was a hard fight and in the end, I had to surrender. It broke my heart giving in to the medications and the fact that they would once again own my body, but I came to a point that I couldn't fight any longer.
Making the decision to return to medications to calm the inflammation in my body was hard. But once the decision was made I chose to accept it whole heartedly. I happen to believe that our thoughts control a lot of how we feel and if I created negative feelings towards my new medications, they would not be able to work to their full ability. Each Thursday for the last year as I prepare to give my Enbrel injection I "thank" it for the work it is doing. Then I take a deep breath, inject, and accept what it is capable of doing for me. The same is true on Friday mornings when I take my five little Methotrexate pills. I open my mind to the help it is providing and then swallow.
Within weeks of starting on Enbrel I became a new person. I slowly went from struggling to lift my tea cup in the morning, needing help out of bed, asking for help getting dressed and undressed, and from getting very little sleep at night to getting back on my bicycle, to walking my border collie without needing a nap afterwards, and to enjoying the hugs my kids often give without feeling the pain of their arms around me. It was amazing.
The shift in how I have felt has been wonderful, yet strange. At first I would move my body ever so slightly and experience a feeling of "wow, that was so easy." I would put dishes away without even thinking about it. I would jump into the car and then realize how little effort it took. My brain felt like it was on overload. All the sudden I was doing things that for the previous years had been a major event in my life. I felt overwhelmed. I realized that just as the changes that prevented me from doing many of the things I loved had come slowly, the changes that allowed me to do them again took time. I needed time to adjust and let my brain catch up with the physical abilities I now had. You see, over the years of fighting against the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, my brain had begun to accept the changes. It had begun to accept that I couldn't open water bottles, that I couldn't wake up in the morning and jump out of bed, that I couldn't walk down the stairs without taking them one at a time. It took my brain a while to realize that life was changing and I didn't have to consider every move I made.
The last year has been a gift. I have been able to do almost everything. I still struggle with the fact that I am taking medications, but instead of feeling like the medications have taken control of my life, I feel they have given me some independence. I no longer have to depend on my son to go to the grocery store with me because I can't lift the bags into my car. I no longer have to depend on my daughter to give me pep talks on my worst flare days that things will get better. In fact the other day she said, "You have been feeling good for so long now that I almost forgot you had rheumatoid arthritis." I don't have to depend on my husband being home and available before I jump into the tub for a bath. The last few years I would never have dared to do such a thing because the consequence could easily have been a day spent in the tub because I couldn't get out myself. I no longer depend on others for a variety of things I do and it feels wonderful! Asking for help was so hard at first and I overcame that hurdle, but it does feel absolutely liberating to not have to ask for it so often anymore.
This month we will celebrate our independence as a free country and at the same time I will be celebrating my freedom from the constant pain and inflammation that comes from rheumatoid arthritis. I feel like I have been given a very special gift, a little break from rheumatoid arthritis. Surrendering to medications was hard, but it has made a world of difference in my everyday world.
Published On: July 05, 2011