Today was the first day in about three weeks that I felt well enough to go up the stable by myself and actually ride my horse. I only rode for about 40 minutes and then was exhausted. I also didn't feel like I had my riding mojo going. Despite that Girl did really well and stayed pretty level and calm. I was talking to my instructor after my ride and she asked how I did and I said I didn't really feel like I had it going on because it's been three weeks since I last really rode, and she said she'd come down to look and the arena and see who was riding and that we looked pretty good - Girl was calm and not cantering off sideways and staying straight. So, that was a nice surprise to hear. I didn't even realize she was around while I was practicing.
I had hoped that I could train enough to enter a benefit show in August but it's already the end of June and I only got to take one lesson this month because I got sick on June 2nd and am just now starting to get back on my feet. Just like every month last winter. I have to admit there have been moments in the last month where I've thought, "I can't live like this." Not like I'm suicidal or anything, just that I can't live like this - constantly trying to act normal when I was probably not sick for a full three weeks (spread out over time) this school year. It made me think of my friend, Steve, who has muscular dystrophy and who could walk with extreme effort and a lot of work a few years ago, but after breaking a leg, realized that his life was much better in a wheelchair, not expending the majority of his energy trying to continue walking when it was so hard for him.
I'm not sure what my analogy for that would be since it's basically either I can function kind of, or my health declines to the point where I can't function at all. My priorities are first - being a mom, and second, keeping my job, and third, trying to be there for my friends. Unfortunately, it seems like the third priority ends up losing out a lot because I am so emotionally and physically depleted by being sick all the time. Now I've got a friend who seems to have either written me off or is giving me the cold shoulder because I'm not following through enough and it has brought about a kind of crisis of re-thinking how I'm living. Do I need to figure out what my "wheelchair" is with my life and stop trying to pretend I am 100% fully functional like the majority of my friends?
The truth is, I am never not in pain. I have no idea what it is like to not be in pain anymore because for the last six years since the worst bout of rheumatoid arthritis hit right after my daughter was born, I've been in physical pain ever since to some degree or another. When I get a cold I don't just get stuffed up, my back feels like its broken, my knees swell to twice their size and my hands stiffen up so it's hard to make a fist. Then like last year I end up on antibiotics over and over again because my immune system is so shot I keep getting bacterial infections. I have a headache every day to some degree or another, I take ungodly large amounts of ibuprofen just so I can function and often by 6pm in the evening my feet and ankles ache so badly I don't want to stand up. I wake up exhausted every morning and roll out of bed praying that a cup of coffee will lift some of the fatigue and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't and more often than I'd like I have to just call in sick and go back to bed. And it frustrates me when people say "Oh, I have rheumatoid arthritis and I just changed my diet a little and now I'm healthier than ever. You just need to get off those toxic drugs." But if I go off those toxic drugs I'm crippled. And I don't have any cartilage left in some of my joints (literally - no cartilage). There is a difference between a non-carcinogenic melanoma and full-on cancer and there is a difference between having early stage rheumatoid arthritis in remission and severe late-stage rheumatoid arthritis with on-going permanent damage. I think I need to really admit that to myself and stop expecting too much of myself.
So, maybe my "wheelchair" is giving up on friendships with people who need normal, healthy friends. Because that is not me. I have lived in complete denial of my health problems for years now and powered through expecting full functioning from myself and constantly being disappointed and I think maybe that's not as healthy of an attitude as I'd thought. Maybe I need to make it clear to my friends that I can only do what I can do and it's not going to be as much as their physically healthy friends. And if that's not ok, then guess they'll just have to move on because I've pushed myself too hard the last few years and I can't do it anymore. I'm just not up to going out to shows very often because by evening I'm sore and exhausted. I'm not up to consistently driving cross town especially in the evenings, I forget things when I'm overwhelmed even if I don't mean to and most of the time I'm hanging by a thread just making it to work and being there for my daughter.
And the only thing that keeps from getting depressed is spending time with my horse. I swear sometimes I just want to build a loft over her stall and live out there with her because riding is really the only thing that is emotionally holding me together. Well, that and my family and a couple close friends who understand what's really going on with me.