I realized with a shock that I haven’t been using my Refresh eye drops for over three weeks now. Normally, my eyes are so dry upon waking that they burn like fire and it hurts to open them, and it hurts to blink.
Every morning, I would reach out my arm so my hand could dive into the drawer of my bedside table where it would search for a single-dose plastic vial. I would instill the drops in both eyes for sweet relief. I could blink, I could open them, I could read, my morning ritual.
But lately, I’ve had no need to go hunting for the eye drops. My eyes were closed so little. They didn’t have the chance to develop dryness. In a way that was good. But in another, that was bad.
Pain was the culprit. Stress the other. Causes for my sleeplessness.
When I first went to my PCP for my leg pain, the nurse walked me to the scale. “Wait until it says zero zero,” she said.
I heard the words clearly, but the message did not compute. I stepped onto the scale while it was still recalibrating.
“You did too soon!” she said.
I stepped off, the message having been delivered, and then I did it right.
“Pain distorts everything,” I said.
And it does.
It distorts your blood pressure.
It distorts your pulse rate.
It distorts your breathing.
It distorts your motion.
It distorts your awareness.
Its distorts your sleep.
It distorts your life.
Everything becomes about controlling the pain. Everything revolves around that goal. Those of us with RA pain, or other chronic pain, know this intimately. The invisible pain that we sometimes, or always, live with.
I am lucky. I rarely have RA pain nowadays, strictly speaking. And when I do, when something flares up, I zap it with a few days’ worth of Prednisone. My rheumatologist has me keep it on hand. “You know what to do,” he says, relying on my years of nursing experience. He lets me be my own nurse. I am, in essence, my only patient now.
But this nerve pain thumbs its nose at steroids. I did two Medrol Dosepaks in two consecutive weeks. Each a six-day course. With not much noticeable improvement at the time, but now two weeks after that, I am much better. Before on a scale of one to ten, I rated my pain at twenty. Now it hovers at two to three. For short, blissful periods it drops to zero. And at others it can climb to five or six, so yes, much better.
The problem is the lull fools me. I do stuff. I cook dinner. I have the audacity to change the bed, seeking help for that fourth corner. That tug that I know I shouldn’t do. I do laundry, picking up nothing heavier than a single item at a time. I wash dishes by hand, always a therapeutic exercise for me. The only minus I perceive is the stooping and bending to load the dishwasher.
Though bending in itself relieves the pressure. In the morning, when the pain is at its apogee, I bend and grab my ankles. I drop my hands to the floor and hold the pose. I rinse, lather, and repeat. The best relief is when I do it in a hot shower, ahhhh, hydrotherapy.
But if I do too much, the next morning when I take those first few excruciating steps of the day, I’d say about twenty, I should count them next time, distract myself from the pain, it is so much worse. But once I get those first steps out of the way, the pain starts to ebb. The tide recedes little by little. And I can walk unaided for the rest of the day.
Yesterday, a friend compared me to Sisyphus, but I disagree. His boulder didn’t get smaller.
Today, I awoke at seven, when normally the pain wakes me by five. And the pain registers at about one. I could walk unaided from the moment I left my bed. It could be improvement, or it could be that I did nothing yesterday. Either way, I am eternally grateful.
I am definitely sleeping for longer and longer periods at night. So, I’m thinking I should restock my bedside drawer with more Refresh eyedrops. Whoever thought I would be looking forward to artificial tears when I’ve shed plenty of real ones these past few weeks.
I have found ways to cope, and music is my crutch. Without it , I don’t think I could cope with anything. I finally set up an iTunes account and have been giving my credit card a workout, setting up a playlist to help me start my day. And sometimes end my day.
This song, with a Texas bent, of course, I dedicate to the relationship between my body and me. Yes, stand by me.