Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Rheumatoid Arthritis and managing depression

It's been a difficult month. The weather has been all over the place. My body's been all over the place. Dragon Dad's been all over the place - with injuries, his appendix, stress with the business... And my head has been all over the place too.

It's difficult to keep a positive focus when there's too much going on that isn't great. I see all the 'practicing gratitude posts' on social media, and to be honest, they make me feel a big up-chucky... I do get the concept, but it just doesn't do it for me. I sometimes wonder - so cynical - how much 'fake-booking' is going on when I see them. 

Years ago, after decades of living behind a protective facade resulted in something of a breakdown, I promised myself - once I'd put myself back together - that I'd not let another facade build up again. Ultimately, it was destructive. That meant figuring out how to live authentically. And I know that's another buzz-wordy sort of concept, but I can't think of a less cheesy way to put it this morning! I do use publicising odd things I plan to do as a tool to make myself actually do them - once it's out there, I have to own it and then come up with the goods type of thing. Because I'm excellent at procrastinating, and then landing hard up against deadlines in a mad tizz of self-inflicted pressure and stress. So, I guess part of me looks at those gratitude posts through that filter. And it's why I've never succumbed to the trend - apart from generally avoiding trends anyway! I can just see myself managing a couple of days of posting my three things, then hitting a trough and having to face a choice between making it up, missing it altogether, or being brutally honest and posting that my day is shite and I'm not grateful for anything! 

So, I hibernate. 

There does come a time though, when I realise the hibernation itself is becoming dysfunctional. I managed, last week, to not go out of the house at all between early Monday morning (had to fill a script) until late in the day Friday (HAD to get groceries...). Given my practice of going out for coffee, which I partly started to make sure I DO get out, I realised I was going down the rabbit hole and I'd better jolt myself out of it. 

Hibernation is fine - within reason. Sometimes, it's just all too hard, and adding the social requirement to be reasonably civilised when you interact with others - particularly strangers - it's the sensible thing to do. But it can become a trap. 

I'm not naturally introverted. I can be shy of new people and new situations. But on the whole, I like being out and about doing things, seeing things, meeting people, etc. I like getting out with Dragon Dad prowling markets, going to art galleries, the cinema, window shopping, and the like. One of my red flags is when I find myself avoiding those things. Reaching the middle of the day still in PJs. Making coffee at home or asking Dragon Dad to bring me one on his way back from errands. Not making the phone calls or sending the emails I should (there's now a long list...including the blasted dentist as of this morning, because that same back tooth that keeps breaking has lost another chunk!). Not initiating chats with friends I spot online. And so on...

My body has been crap this last month. I started to deteriorate early in last month's infusion cycle, and then in the week prior, Dragon Dad did his whole appendix drama and the extra running around combined with stress tripped a flare. It took a long time to claw my way back from that, and it was really starting to feel as if I were in for one of those months when there's just no improvement. The last couple of days have been a bit better though, and that does help my state of mind. It's frightening and confronting when there's a really big, extended flare, because then it starts to feel like I'm hitting a new low spot physically that is an indicator of further losses that could become the new normal. The reality is I probably have slid further, but until I sort out some imaging and review results along with the monthly bloods (although, they're rarely conclusive) with my rheumatologist, that's just my gut feeling. Although, with a chronic, degenerative disease, it's not way off the mark to be thinking along those lines. 

So, given a couple of better days and articulating to a friend this morning that depression is reaching out its grabby little tentacles again, it's time to push myself to NOT get pulled under. 

Consequently, that friend and I have arranged to meet up tomorrow in the real world, to have coffee and a catch up. She's also been having a bit of a rough time lately disease-wise, so there's absolutely NO requirement to put on a face, thankfully, or try to explain - she gets it. 

I sorted through yarn and patterns yesterday, and started knitting a scarf. Given that my absolutely most favourite jumper reached the stage where it's obviously old and eroding on the edges, along with a favourite cardigan, I need to look at adding warm layers to my wardrobe with the yarn and patterns I have in the stash - because that won't require any financial outlay. So, the scarf, which is a quick project, will get me back in the groove again, and ready, when it's finished, to embark on a new jumper/cardigan project.  

I will find a Tai Chi group - that will hopefully not cost too much, because there's just no money at present for extras. It could be argued that it's not an extra, except that it will cost money, and anything outside the essentials at the moment is an extra. But I need to be moving more, and that is a good choice as it'll give me the exercise, as well as getting me out and involved with some new people. I did find someone fairly close by who teaches a fusion of Tai Chi and Yoga, but she's $25 per session. When I looked into Tai Chi in Sydney, the Tai Chi association charged $95 for a ten week hopefully I can find something like that here. To that end, I've left some money from my last pay cheque in my account in case I can find an affordable group.

I will also email the cantor at our shul - finally. The shul has several choirs, and one of the things that was always on the drawing board with the move here was to get back to regular shul going, and get involved musically. I was a professional chorister at the shul in Sydney where we used to go. I've not been singing for some time now, and it's time I got back to it. I also need to sort out some regular drawing. The Tai Chi has priority financially, so the life drawing group I've found will have to wait but there's no reason at all not to be drawing at home and trying to find a market for the work - which will mean, hopefully, more income, and therefore more options for activities. 

So, have you seen what I've done here? Put a list of goals to meet out in the public domain as incentive to get them done! So, feel free to call me on any of them, if I don't report back soon to say I've got at least some of them in train... 

Meantime, the one thing I have managed to keep going is Fat Mum Slim's Photo A Day challenge, which I'm participating in on Facebook. It's great fun, it is social (I've added a new FB friend as of last night), and I'm learning lots. I also definitely now want a DSLR camera...!! With lots of different lenses. Although, I continue to be amazed and surprised by what's possible to achieve with an iPhone camera. I've just made up the collage of all my images from March (because I've taken tomorrow's photo already, and I needed something fun to do this get me past the black dog) and here it is for your enjoyment. I got fabbed - chosen as one of the images of the day - for the photo of my morning tea mug and novel (in the top right hand corner of the collage), which was a lovely surprise and boost. And now I have a list of things to get onto. How do all of you manage creeping depression?


  1. It looks like you are doing the very best you can. I wish what works for me worked for you and vice versa. but since I know it will not I will not give you my best advice. what i can say is keep going it will get better. Oh yeah and have some great coffee. The best things in life start with coffee.

    1. Coffee definitely helps clear my head...the drug blur isn't nice!
      So, I found Tai Chi Australia, and the cost isn't impossible. So, I'll head there for the free intro session and to meet people and see how I go. The next beginner group starts on April 18. And coffee yesterday with my friend was great. It also helped that Dragon Dad had an excellent meeting with some important potential colleagues - if he can get past the current block on the business and get it moving, that will be a huge boost for both of us.
      Thanks, as always, for your sage words, Rick!

  2. You are wise to recognise the signs of starting to sink and to reach out for your life bouys before you go under. I hope your early action has lead to you feeling more able to do the things you want and enjoy doing.

    1. I'm better now than I was when I wrote this post, Jodie - thank you! I've started tai chi and I'm liking it - had to miss last week after my infusion, which was frustrated, and I need to do some cramming today to catch up before I go tonight... It's an ever present thing though, and I think very common to most of us with chronic illness, as the day to day frustrations and not feeling 100% constantly undermine even the best efforts at staying positive.