What Rheumatoid Arthritis and my cat taught me.
Most mornings there is only silence. Silence and I meet up for coffee and words. We listened to each other and get along very well.
The other day, I must have been dreaming because I was trying to convince my large ginger kitty, Copper to make me a cup of coffee and bring it to me in bed. And while I was dreaming, I jokingly added and maybe my laptop too.
However, that morning, I had closed my eyes again and snuggled deeper with the scent of stillness and darkness, thinking how extra cozy it would be to have a mug of coffee to hold.
My thoughts slipped me back into sleep; that was a rare and beautiful treat.
Forty-five minutes later I woke up again and it was still early. Copper was right there purring and pawing at my pillow fort of safe and sweet. His insistence caved me, and I rolled over to prepare for my launch out of bed.
If you know me well, you already know I have rheumatoid arthritis. I move much slower, especially in the morning, while my joints wake up and all the aches find a rhythm. I’m not making it up or being dramatic when I take the stairs one step at a time to pause and breathe through the hurt.
My knees throb. My elbows are locked. My feet and finger are swollen. My neck is in a vice. My lower back spasms daily. My right hip turns inward. I now limp.
Speaking of my right hip, I had a dream about it a month or so ago. I clearly heard a dream voice say, you need to turn inward to hear.
The voice was distinct and real, and it woke me up on many levels.
It’s true. I need to turn inward to hear. I need to frequently pull away from the crowds because if I don’t, I’ll lose my center. There’s a lot of noise outside of our tender bubbles and we need to remember our style might be weird and not always accepted.
Nevertheless, I rarely talk about my arthritis. Almost immediately after I typed that sentence, I heard a stoic voice say, it is what it is.
Very similar to, don’t cry over spilt milk, and it’s not that bad. Suck it up. You are fine. You don’t know what real pain is like.
But when I listen closer to those old tapes stored in my body, there’s shame. The words I’ve heard before, you are broken ring a little too loud and I grow a lot quieter and keep the inflammation to myself.
This doesn’t help.
Rheumatoid arthritis, like other autoimmune disorders are not fully visible. It’s hidden and yet our bodies are talking all the time. There’s always a connection to the mind, body and spirit and it asks us, what is my body trying to tell me?
So, I asked her, and she graciously replied.
I’m not broken. I’m not feeble. My body isn’t a joke and the pains are very real.
She took a deep breath and continued….
We each have difficulties that we don’t necessarily share on the daily yet when we do express what hurts us, it’s not the other person’s right to dismiss us and tell us how we feel.
All that does is mitigates our story. The story within our pains becomes masked and we don’t get to see, hear and learn about the soul’s rich, fertile, and fluid language.
To go slower. Listen to your abilities and understand there’s a wisdom and intelligence that will no longer withstand being invalidated.
This conversation went on for awhile.
My aches and swellings are inflamed. I believe an anger lives there and an outrage that needs to stand with justice.
My arthritis has taught me that few will hear, listen, and understand.
BUT — the ones that do are golden. They are real and kind. Labels are put aside, and my spirit is seen.
Overall, our dis-abilities have hidden gifts that slow us down, help us to speak out, teach us empathy, and give us love to connect to others.
Carolyn Riker is a poet, writer and author. She has two books of poetry: Blue Clouds and This is Love. She’s currently working on her third book of poetry and a her first novel. In addition to writing, she has a private practice as a highly sensitive mental health therapist. If you would like to read more of her words, follow her on Facebook at Carolyn Riker, MA, LMHC or Instagram.