Isn't it funny how we can just go through the motions of life without stopping to really take stock of what's going on inside? Initially, when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I was sad but I was motivated. I was going to take charge of this disease. I had a good doctor with an aggressive treatment plan. She told me I could still run. I figured that once the pain subsided, I'd be good to resume my regularly scheduled life.
The dust has settled and the overwhelming, jarring reality of having RA has set in.
By now, I thought I'd be completely better. After 6 weeks of steroids and methotrexate injections, I thought I'd be pain-free.
Silly, naive me. I had no idea that I was in this for the long run. I'm doing handstands! I ran 50 miles for that running challenge! Heck, I ran 105 miles in January! I'm lifting all the weight! And don't forget about all the yoga...
After beginning my treatment plan, I saw a dramatic improvement in my symptoms. Now I'm in a holding pattern. I have daily symptoms. Mostly, my hands swell, burn, and ache. There are some random pains and weird rashes. I'm still fatigued. Nothing debilitating, just an ongoing reminder that I'm fighting this illness.
This past week, though, a new symptom appeared. My old nemesis, anxiety, broke through and rose to the surface. I've done such a good job over the years tamping that demon down, and now it returns, threatening to derail me. On a run last week, lost in my head, I felt suddenly overwhelmed with panic. It was scary and it was frightening. Knowing what was happening, I was able to calm myself down enough to finish my run, but that pressure in my chest didn't completely resolve. After my run, I worked out with my tough-as-nails coach and we talked about what happened. She blamed the steroids. Feeling strong and empowered after lifting some heavy weights, I went home for lunch.
I considered all that has happened with this illness over the past 6 weeks.
Besides dealing with the disease and reframing how I see myself, I've been struggling with the paradox of being a medical provider with a chronic illness. It's ironic how we medical folks do such a good job of providing compassionate care to our patients but not to each other. Couple that with non-stop gray skies and the shenanigans of our new president--well, it's not a complete surprise that I started to crack a little bit.
Later that day, I went to see my rheumatologist for a follow-up. I was prepared with a list of questions for her. Instead, I got into it with the receptionist as she greeted me with an announcement that I owed a large sum of money and asked me how would I paying for it. Hello!
Then I burst into tears as I apologized for my reaction.
Even after my apology, I couldn't stop the flow of tears. It was as if someone turned on a faucet. I cried while I sat in the waiting room and I continued to cry when I was brought back to the exam room. The PA came into the room to examine me and I kept crying. We talked about how I was feeling. Why wasn't I better? Why am I still feeling symptoms? Why am I starting to feel so anxious?
She finished her exam, left the room, and returned with my rheumatologist, who agreed that my anxiety was probably a result of the prolonged course of steroids. While she agreed to wean the steroids slowly, she cautioned me that I may need to continue on the steroids or even increase the dosage if my symptoms worsen. She answered my list of questions. She talked about reducing stress in my life, citing the difficulties I've been having at my job. She also praised me for continuing with running and reinforcing the importance of activity. She suggested mindful meditation. By the end of our visit, the tears stopped.
I drove home from my visit feeling more calm but drained. Determined not to let this disease and subsequent anxiety derail me, I vowed to retake control.
I continue to run. I continue to play with yoga. I'm working towards new goals in my strength training sessions.
Already committed to Grandmas Marathon, I signed up for my other 2 spring races.
I modified my running playlist, deleting most of the "angry music" (that's what Becky calls my hard rock) and adding songs with more positive melodies. They're still edgy--you wouldn't expect me to pick anything fluffy, would you? I've got some good ones, and I'll share them next week. It was time for a change anyways.
I'm also making some big changes in my diet which I'll share in Friday's post.
With regards to the anxiety, I'm feeling better. In fact, I feel like myself again. Is it the reduction in the steroids? The reduction in my hours at work? The changes in my diet? The happy music?
Anxiety and panic on the run? Oh hell, no. That's my sanctuary. That's my moving meditation.
Just breathe. Positive energy. Taking control. Staying on track.
Have you ever dealt with anxiety and/or panic attacks? What do you do to stay on track?
I'm linking up with Deb Runs for Wednesday Word, which happens to be derail. Check out what everyone else is saying about this word!