The Blame Game

From experience when it comes to having RA, it’s easy to play the blame game when a flare happens.  You ask, “what caused this?”   And if it’s not you asking the questions, then perhaps it’s your spouse, your family member or your co-worker.  Most of the time,  you don’t know the answer of what causes a flare.  If you did, you’d stay away from it.  You’d stop talking to your mother if that meant you’d never have RA again.  And sometimes you have a pretty good suspicion of what just threw your body into wicked pain and disability.

I was already feeling run down but I had to make it to a 40th birthday party.  It was important,  I couldn’t miss it.  If I could do it all over again, I’d still have gone but I would definitely change a few things.

I was human.  I made typical mistakes.  I pushed myself too hard.  I drank too much,  I danced too much.  I got too little sleep.  I ate all the wrong foods the next day:  soup with noodles, bread and then pizza.  It was all to calm down the acids in my stomach, quiet the nausea I had and the dizziness from drinking WAY too much and also comfort myself because I felt so ill.  My pounding head was keeping me from thinking any rational thoughts anyway.  I’m sure my headache wasn’t just from the hangover.  It had been hurting for days before I made it official.  My RA wasn’t bothering me (yet) probably because alcohol thins the blood.  The funny thing is, I had been avoiding alcohol for quite some time.  So when the party came, I decided to give in a little.  And you know, once your inhibitions are down, this is when your choices can really go out the window.  In the late evening when I reached for another cocktail rather than water, that’s when things became tipsy-turvy.  And when that sweet drink went down and I was STILL thirsty, I reached for one more.  Of course at this point, I was too buzzed to talk myself out of it.  I could still stand.  What was the harm in one more drink?  Actually, my mind didn’t even go there.  I just thought, “I’m thirsty……got liquid?”

If only the hangover could happen right then, so you can stop the drinking.  Instead, you just feel great and numb to any rational.  I didn’t drive home of course, but as a passenger, I felt like hanging my head out of the window like a dog.  Of course, it would have been for relief, not for enjoyment and yes, my tongue would have been sticking out.  To make matters worse, I’m one of those people that actually holds everything in, no matter how sick I am, poisoning my body far worse than most.  Most people share in the ritualistic experience of expelling the poisons.  I on the other hand, could probably swallow hydrogen peroxide and keep it down.

That was Saturday.

Sunday was spent nursing my hangover.

When Monday came around I was in a horrific flare.  I knew it was everything that I had done wrong:  too little sleep, all the wrong food, coupled with all the sugar from the alcohol and did I mention, alcohol is a poison?  Oh yeah, you know that already.  Bread, pasta, everything I ate that day was inflammatory, at least, according to my reading it is (current pick is “The Inflammation Free Diet Plan”).  And here in lies the blame game.

So yes, that morning when I got up to go to work and my stiff neck, rocks under my feet and wrists that felt like they were in a torture device trying to pull them apart, were all slowing me down and keeping me from getting to work on time, I played the blame game.  I blamed myself for making wrong decisions that night and the next day.  I blamed myself for the sleepless nights on the weeks before the party that made me run down.  I blamed myself for all the exercise I skipped for a couple of weeks because I simply felt tired and lazy.  I blamed myself for all the supplements I forgot to take.  And I went into work feeling angry and frustrated for all the things I’m suppose to avoid and all the things I’m suppose to do to quiet my condition.  And I felt embarrassed that maybe I could have avoided this.  There was no skip in my step, no ambitious agendas ahead of me.  It’s not enough to have RA, you’re also suppose to be great at eating all the right foods, getting good sleep, living a stress free life and getting exercise, haven’t you heard?  It’s tiring avoiding things and trying to stay on the straight and narrow.  It’s tiring taking supplements.  It’s tiring just knowing that there’s never a real break from any of it.  And yes, I still have yet to try Yoga.

I’m still in a flare but at least I can turn the steering wheel now without wincing (as much) and without the staccato jerky turn only a person who probably shouldn’t be driving might do.  At least I can view my computer screen again without the blurry vision that accompanies me when I’m in a really bad flare.  And at least I can finally put my arms to my sides without feeling like my wrists are being pulled off.  And in no way does this flare compare to ones of the past where the pain and disability made me crazy.

I’m still tired however, hoping things will somehow change, hoping one day I’ll reach remission.  I think I’m learning, slowly but surely. ……….. Oh hey, will you pass that bread?  ……..but I will probably never be perfect.  After all, I am human.

Sick Days, No thanks!!

Vomiting is one of the many side effects of Methotrexate

Vomiting is one of the many side effects of Methotrexate

Being part of a support group, I check daily posts written by fellow RA sufferers. In a recent post called “MTX questions” a person asked what others do in regards to taking their MTX, (Methotrexate). Do they take it Friday and feel sick on Saturday or do they take it Sunday and feel horrible for Monday? This is a common question and it gets addressed often. For those of you that don’t know, Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug, also known as a DMARD and it works by suppressing the immune system. For those of us with an autoimmune disease, the common thought is that an autoimmune disease means an overactive immune system. I have found information that states autoimmune diseases are simply the body confusing healthy tissue for non-healthy tissue, meaning it’s not a system that’s overactive as so much it is an immune system that isn’t working correctly. Suppressing the immune system does not make it work correctly. Instead, it keeps the body from destroying itself, kind of. Methotrexate may cause damage to the liver, intestines and sometimes the lungs, just to name a few. Although it doesn’t seem like methotrexate is a good option, doctors don’t present many other options when you get diagnosed with RA. And you can’t go on living with uncontrollable inflammation. Inflammation in itself, if left uncontrolled can cause cancer, intestinal damage, organ damage, other diseases and with RA will most likely cause joint erosion and deformation. So although taking a toxic drug like methotrexate seems out of the question, not taking it is just as scary.

It’s no wonder I kept searching for alternative options. I was tired of dreading my weekends. On Monday and Tuesday I still felt like I was a little bit “sick” from the methotrexate. If you haven’t taken this drug and it hits you hard like it did with me, this is what I experienced: The next morning after taking methotrexate I would feel more swollen, more painful and more stiff. My kidney area always felt like it had been kicked in the night and this would last until later in the evening. I would feel extremely fatigued and as if I had slept on rocks. Imagine you haven’t slept in 2 days. That’s how fatigued I felt. Or imagine what the flue feels like. That’s exactly how it was, resting both Saturday and Sunday so I could prepare for the following work week. Even running a low grade temperature wasn’t out of the question, of course this could have just been my RA at work. My hair would always fall out in mass amounts on Saturday and it would lessen as time went by. My eyes would be somewhat bloodshot and I would generally feel less hungry than normal for a few days. I wouldn’t exercise over the weekends. Instead, I would try and “recover” until the week started again and try to summon up energy to get myself to the gym after a few days of shaking off the methotrexate side effects. Heck, I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t throw up after taking methotrexate, a common side effect. As time went on having Rheumatoid Arthritis, I found myself becoming weaker and weaker. Workouts were less effective. My resistance level became less and less on the eliptical machine. I no longer did weights because the swelling of my wrists and fingers made it impossible. I continued to at least work hard at strengthening my knee joints. I figured that was the most important-being able to walk, so I made it my top priority.

When I finally freed myself of the methotrexate hangover, I felt like I was on the right path. And speaking of hangover, being on methotrexate meant you couldn’t drink a drop of alcohol because the drug itself does a # all on it’s own to your liver. Being off the drug meant I could drink again. Though I know alcohol is a poison, I tested my theory out on my own liver….just how bad can it be compared to methotexate? I was getting monthly blood tests because doctors have to keep track of how your liver is functioning and I would closely monitor my tests. At one point in time, just 10mg of methotrexate (a very small dose) elevated my liver enzymes. Yet when I went off this drug, one weekend I purged on alcohol. I came in for my test and didn’t tell them I was off of methotrexate. When the results came in, my liver was functioning better than it ever had while I was on methotrexate. Go figure!!

So truly, the reality is methotrexate is hard on your body. For those of you that take it, I feel for you. If your side effects are bad, giving up your weekends to a drug is a horrible thing to experience. I wish you all the best of luck in your journey with an autoimmune disease, or if you know someone who has an autoimmune disease please be compassionate as I’m sure they could use the support.

%d bloggers like this: