The Weakest Gazelle

I haven’t been doing well. Early last week, my joints started flaring up again with pain and swelling. I once again became the achy Tin Man. Instead of getting gradually better each day, the pain and stiffness got much worse. By Friday afternoon, my foot was so affected that I couldn’t bear weight on it and it was too swollen and inflexible to squeeze it into a shoe. This meant I could only shuffle and drag it around the house as I limped from room to room, or it needed to be in my worn-out orthopedic boot from the winter and spring where it lived for nearly eight months. Slipping it back in and tightening those dreaded Velcro straps was enough to give me a jolt of PTSD anxiety-induced heart racing. While I’ve pledged to work on separating physical and emotional pain such that physical pain doesn’t absolutely guarantee emotional pain, this is one instance where, try as I might, I cannot do this. To my credit, in general, I’ve gotten much better at this, which has really been beneficial for mood stability despite chronic illness and pain. There are so many instances I can recall from the past few months where I maintained an upbeat or at least neutral mood despite major pain or sickness. That was such a rare occurrence even six months ago. Progress.

The boot and its immobility implications seem to carry at least one inescapable negative emotion (anger, depression, frustration, anxiety, hopelessness, sadness, etc.). This is largely because I enjoy being active and it’s a potent mood elevator and anxiety reducer, but being in the boot also stirs up traumatic memories and feelings, both from my epic injury last year and the fact that I was in a boot when I was attacked. Wearing the boot makes my fragile, frightened brain assume the injured gazelle mindset like in on the African plain and wearing the target on my back for lions to select me, the weak prey. I feel vulnerable and that makes my anxiety skyrocket.

Since the foot has become unusable, I’ve been consciously trying to keep calm and refrain from catastrophizing the situation. My brain defaults to “I’m going to be out of commission for seven months again!” even just one day into the issue. The thing about psoriatic arthritis (PsA) flare-ups is that I don’t have an “injury” per se. This is good and bad. Sometimes it can mean the problem will resolve spontaneously and quite quickly (faster than a true injury of that magnitude of pain would), but other times, it is the opposite. The unknown prognosis and time to resolution is another source of anxiety and worry; I like to know how things will play out before they do. I also like to feel that I have some control over the recovery and have treatment modalities that will speed the process along. With PsA, this isn’t really the case. There is little I can control, virtually no way of anticipating the natural course of what happens, and few “treatments” (currently for me at least) to help with healing. That renders me powerless and oftentimes hopeless.

I write blog entries when I have the time, energy, and interest to do so. Since it’s a personal blog about my life experiences and thoughts, I don’t really lack the ideas for post content, which is a nice departure from my previous fitness blog where I needed an idea or inspiration to spark a post. Part of keeping this blog unstructured is that I have no agenda or self-inflicted expectation of how much or how often I should write. Letting the blog take its natural course turns out to be an interesting reflection of my life at times. I see that when posts are sparse, I’m often unwell or struggling with something. This means I’m conserving my mental and emotional energy for the very necessary tasks or just writing a little privately. When posts are more frequent, I’m often doing better. I guess the recent period of relative silence speaks to my current low. I’m not feeling well. This too shall pass. When? I don’t know, but it will. For now, I have to believe in that and let that be enough.

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