In June 2016, when I decided to do yoga teacher training, I was the strongest and healthiest I have ever been. The stars had completely aligned. However, as luck would have it, I would start to experience some tough times again with the rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) mainly attacks the synovial tissues around the joints. My immune system thinks its the enemy and it develops antibodies to seek out and destroy the “invaders” in the synovium. RA is also systemic so it can impact the entire body. It can attack organs, such as the heart, the lungs, or other tissues like muscles, cartilage and ligaments.

In the last 3 months, my lungs and muscles have been the target. I have been on antibiotics 3 times, a few inhalers and Prednisone. I have felt crummy A LOT. My sedimitation rate (SED rate) was the highest it’s been in years. (SED rate is a blood test that can reveal inflammatory activity in your body. My doctors use it to monitor the progress of inflammatory diseases.) I have been fatigued, experiencing brain fog, increased pain in my muscles and breathing issues. Not one person that I know living with breathing issues or asthma enjoys it, It’s very scary. I have had a lung collapse before. It feels like everything, your life, could be coming to an end. I imagine it to be like drowning. The irony of it all is that in yoga the breath is our gauge, barometer. My barometer was saying rest and I had to listen. It’s mentally draining. It pisses me off when this happens. I go to stinking thinking sometimes. Not nearly as much as I once did but it creeps in. For example, I’ll think” Are you effing kidding me? I’ve come this far, I’ve paid my dues, can I just catch a break!!” But when these things happen, I see how far I have come because I handle the set backs 1,000 times better than ever before thanks to mindfulness, yoga and reiki!

I had figured out my recipe for success. I was worried my care team was going to tell me I was doing too much. Was I going to have to quit teacher training? Those of us with chronic illness and pain have to be prepared for most anything. Saying no to things you really want to do, no to social events, no to heels, no to super cute shoes, no to important events in our lives….it can suck. Thankfully, they said keep going, keep pushing, rest when you need, get good sleep at night but don’t stop what you are doing.

The curse of all of this is that the biologic I inject weekly for the RA makes me more vulnerable than most to getting infections. So here is my common conundrum….The medication is heavy duty and it treats a heavy duty disease, it also significantly increases my chances of getting sick. I get sick a lot, when I get sick, I often can’t take the heavy duty med because it’s dangerous, very risky. So if I am sick, I can’t treat the RA. It’s a conundrum, a double whammy, a WTH kinda situation. Of course this is all happening during the busiest time. It’s always how it works isn’t it? These are the situations that provide the most stress and anxiety. I can’t always do what I want to do when I want to do it. I have to listen to my body because I need it. Showing compassion to myself is something I avoided for years, something I didn’t even know how to do. Now, I don’t know how I lived without it for so long.

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