It is a perfect time in my life to be sharing on this topic. Lately, life has supplied me with rapid changes and unwelcome surprises, all of which leave me feeling as if I’ve been hit by a truck. Naturally joyful, I find myself in strange territory: deep depression. Of course, as part of the chronically ill population, we all feel depressed from time to time, but this time it is different. I cannot find my smile. It was knocked far from me in the “accident”. I cannot find my motivation. (Just ask my editors.) And, most of all, this mental and emotional change in me has manifested itself in my PsA, with a major flare up of arthritis symptoms.
As a wife, I listen to my husband. He lifts me up in ways no one else can. But, he cannot feel what my body feels. He does not always understand that resting is imperative at times, especially when there are dishes waiting in the sink and other chores I promised to tackle are left undone. For him, it takes five minutes to load the dishwasher. For me, it means standing too long, stressing my joints and tendons and requires a 25 minute sit-down to recover.
As a patient, I listen to my doctor. I just moved across the country and met yesterday with my new rheumatologist. She understands our disease better than my husband can, but even she cannot feel how my body feels. I take the advice and motivation from my husband and my doctors, but still have to make my own choices, based on what my body is telling me in the moment.
It is great to make plans, work from to-do lists and have goals. As people living with PsA, we know we may have to scrap these at a minute’s notice, and inevitably, disappoint our family and friends. Now, we are called “flaky” for another reason: because others see us as unreliable.
I am not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just seeking to affirm you. So, how do I cope while in deep depression and in a flare? I listen to my body. It tells me everything I need to know. We are already used to listening to our bodies to tell us when we are hungry and what foods we are craving at a certain time. We let our bodies tell us when we want to go to sleep at night and when we are thirsty.
I also listen to mine in between those times. When I am knocked down fatigued, I make sure I get my vitamins, supplements and a little caffeine, then go back to bed for as long as it takes. If it is too exhausting to shower, I skip it. If showering or emptying the dishwasher or making meals is only going to knock me down further, I skip those tasks too. Tomorrow is another day, after all.
Outside of major fatigue, on days when I can be more productive, I work from my to-do list. I LOVE crossing things off a list! It makes me feel very accomplished, even if that list only contains things like brushing my teeth and folding the laundry. When my pain is flaring, I know moving more will keep me looser, so I only rest between tasks, and not for too long. For example, I may make breakfast, sit to eat, wash dishes, sit for a quick phone meeting, make the bed, sit while I brush my teeth, wash a load of laundry, then sit to write another article for PsA and Me. You see what I mean.
If I do not take the time to listen to my body and push myself too hard, I am usually ‘rewarded’ by a day or more in bed, unable to even feed myself. What good am I to anyone, then? So, I ignore the disappointed looks and what others deem “gentle pushes” to help me. I have to, if I am going to survive.
On a personal note, I am glad you are here. Dealing with change and loss are made so much easier when you know you have a community who cares about you. If you are dealing with serious depression as a result of your PsA or due to life in general, don’t suffer in silence. Have a frank conversation with your rheumatologist about what you are feeling. It may be time to consider counseling to get you through this rough patch. Listen to your body and work with your doctor to get the best possible outcome. You are important. Don’t forget that.
This article was written by Lori-Ann Holbrook, a regular contributor at PsAndMe.com, a social site dedicated to helping the whole PsA community.