Why the changing season is no picnic for those with arthritis
As I look out the window, I see that the weather is changing again. It’s that time of year when cold turns to hot, and the cycle of growth begins again. Those of us who suffer from arthritis know this time well, as it is usually when we suffer the most. No one can say exactly why, but there is certainly no shortage of theories. Whether it’s barometric pressure affecting joints to the human body being able to actually sense the seasons, the simple fact is that we are affected more than the normal, everyday, human.
This past winter has been brutal in my part of the country, the Northeast. We were blessed with a mild winter last year, and even before it came to a close I was saying that we were in for a harsh cold season the next time winter hits. I wish I was wrong, but I wasn’t. Here in New York, we have endured more sub-freezing temperatures over the last few months than we have in any time in recent memory. Of course, this is no picnic for those of us who have arthritis. Yes, it’s better for joints to be cold than hot, but neither extreme is good, and this winter was the very definition of extreme.
Sitting in my room all winter, attempting to use a tiny space heater to prevent my fiancée and me from freezing to the bone was miserable. When my joints get cold, they literally stop moving, as most anything does when it the temperature is lowered. There were times when I’d have to use the hair dryer while in the bathroom to “unfreeze” my knees and hands in order to continue using them. That’s what happens when it is 2 out. As in 2 degrees. Being perpetually cold no matter how many blankets and sweatshirts you have on is an annoyance that I cannot convey – you have to experience it yourself.
Unfortunately, as bad as this winter and it’s artic chill was, I’d still take it over the change of seasons. The early spring and late autumn are times when my body simply goes haywire, and it’s been happening for years. It’s as if I can sense the seasons changing, and my body tries to shift into warm or cold weather mode, and in the process, it makes me terribly sick. I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, my nose perpetually runs, I have absolutely no energy, and my joints ache much more than usual. The worst thing about the change of seasons, though, is that the little sleep that I do get seems to vanish altogether.
I haven’t gotten a decent, uninterrupted, night of sleep in many years. The last time I can remember sleeping through the night is well before my high school days. I’d like to blame it on my disease, but even in the early days, I was a night owl. I remember there were years at a time when I knew the entire schedule of 1980’s sitcom reruns on late night television, and I watched them all. Even now that I’m older and actually want to sleep, I still cannot because every four hours or so I need to get up and take pain medication.
So, I get to rest in four hour snippets, which would be adequate, except I am a very light sleeper. If a lightning bug begins to glow several blocks over, I hear it, and then lay awake for another five minutes or so, reading my Kindle as I fall back asleep. Unfortunately, as I drift off to dreamland, I slowly lose my grip on the book reader until it eventually falls forward right onto my face and whacks me in the nose. Of course, I wake up with a start, realize it was my own stupidity that I was hit in the face with, shake my head, and start the process all over again. It’s like a comedy routine that no one gets to see.
Of course, throughout this entire ordeal, Allison is next to me, sleeping like a lumberjack on the night shift. She is a sound sleeper, and could remain fast asleep even if someone took her bed and put it next to a fireworks and dynamite testing facility. Any time I need something, or I bop myself in the nose, her eyes remain closed. I could be on fire, and if the water was on her nightstand, I’d definitely burn to death. There is an exception to this rule, though, and that’s her fear of common household noises – those wake her up instantly, even if she’s four houses over.
Finally, on top of everything else, I always seem to catch a cold when the seasons turn. I don’t know why this is, whether it’s because my immune system is dealing with allergies as well or because there’s just more colds going around at that time, I always seem to find the sniffles. For a normal person, this is annoying, but for me, it’s downright horrible. I have to stop my arthritis medication immediately, as it basically turns down my immune system to the “low” setting, and I have to suffer through the hurt and general malaise as my immune systems comes back on line after months of being beat down by the medication. My glands get sore, the old R.A. fevers come back, and my joints ache even more than normal.
So, as you can see, for people like me, this is one of the two worst times of the year. Sometime, the only thing that keeps me going is looking forward to warmer days that can be spent outside, or anticipating snow days, when you can bundle up cozy inside with someone you love. Either way, it’s always a question of whether I’ll weather the weather, and just saying it is confusing enough.