Today, I met up with a friend at Sweedeedee in North Portland. It had been a while since we had a chance to really connect. This woman always amazed me with her dedication to yoga. Always showing up for class, and being *all in*. She used to come to my yoga classes several times weekly, and back then, I never knew she was dealing with RA. It wasn’t until after my diagnosis, that I found out. Now that I know what I know, by direct experience with RA, I am even more impressed by her will to keep moving. Quite *literally*.
The idea of moving your body is easy when you’re not experiencing the severe, joint crushing, joy zapping pain that is Rheumatoid Arthritis. I mean, I thought I knew what pain was before. I did not. Dang, I had no idea. Many people aren’t too familiar with RA, and think it’s just a type of arthritis. Well, the word arthritis simply refers to joint involvement. RA is a severe, systemic, chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease that attacks the joints, tendons, tissue and often organs and more.
As someone who’s body is what they used for work, to live and to enjoy an active life, RA was a brutal blow. I was always an athlete. Strong. Powerful. It’s how I related to my physical form. It’s what I knew about this host I call, my body. As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I loved a deep, strong asana practice. It helped me to feel the aliveness of my being. It got me to *be* in my body. Finding out my own body was attacking and damaging itself was something that caused me to take a serious pause. Although, I resisted at first. We all how well resistance works, right? When I got to the point where I could not get up and down off the floor, or demonstrate most asanas, I had to stop.
Pain has a messed-up way of getting us to pause. It can get you into a choke hold and take you down onto your knees, showing no mercy. What you do, and where you go from there, is up to you.
I was on my knees. Well, not really because my knees were the worst affected. But, I was at the point where I felt like begging for mercy. I was unable to walk much, or get up and down from sitting without wincing, gritting my teeth and often times howling. My fingers curled, my neck froze and every joint in my body felt like hot lava and broken glass.
When I was no longer able to move much, I surrendered and decided that the stillness pain had led me to, was there to show me something. Not the pain as the teacher, but the stillness. Then stillness, showed me softness, and softness taught me more about humility.
Today, I am softer, slower and show myself forgiveness and more kindness.
For right now, I am experiencing less pain. This has not come by some miracle, but by my choice to start aggressive treatment for RA, as well as learning energy medicine and using it to help manage my symptoms. It’s takes work, and It’s working. I am grateful for this. Every day I wake up and do something called the Daily Energy Routine, which is something I learned in Eden Energy Medicine. These simple exercises keep my energies balanced, unscrambled and moving forward.. This became my asana practice while I was hurting. Because it’s easy, gentle and so powerful. I also take herbs, and only eat healthy, organic foods and mostly cook at home. In addition to these natural treatments, I inject myself twice a week with two different medications. Both of these medications are strong immunosuppressants, and work to keep my immune system from attacking my body. I was reluctant to take any medications or embrace a western approach to treating my body. But, being open to what really works for my body, has proven to be beneficial. For now. This will be an ongoing practice and requires me to be aware, open and adaptable. Every once in a while, I will skip an injection, to see if maybe just maybe, my immune system has chilled out. It only takes a day or two, before I am reminded to be patient. But, I am hopeful. This disease causes me to be undeniably present.
Chronic pain can cause feelings of loneliness, disconnection, blame and yeah, depression. Watching your body change, become weaker, damaged, softer, less capable of doing everyday things we take for granted, is surreal and a strangely ruminative experience. Too often we blame ourselves. Did I eat the right things? Did I eat the wrong things? Was I kind enough? Healthy enough? Loving enough?
Disease is dis-ease, right? Oh man, was I not easeful enough?
I was. I was. As much as anyone who makes health a priority and kindness a practice could be . But being easeful, peaceful or even yogic is NOT a full time state, as much as we are often led to believe that is *the path*. We are human and we experience and move through the full spectrum of emotions. It’s how we respond which determines how easeful we are. Sometimes we do all we can, and we still experience pain and illness. Blaming ourselves doesn’t help the healing. Being loving toward ourselves does.
Meeting up with my friend today, was healing. Sharing, laughing, tearing up and yeah, connecting. She continues to inspire me by her will and dedication.
I invite anyone who is suffering to connect with me. Reach out, ask questions, share your story.