By Courtney Lowry
As odd as it may sound, something that an able-bodied person may take for granted is getting up in the morning. Over the past few days, I have been experiencing an intense psoriatic arthritis flare. It began last Wednesday, November 23. I am still feeling its effects four days later.
Mornings have been tough for me lately. I slept for almost 10 hours last night; it took me two hours to get ready this morning. I woke up at 5:30 am. I laid in bed for another 30 minutes because I was too stiff. Then, I took an hour-long bath to relieve some of the hip and back pain from the flare. My goal was to leave the house at around 7. But when my shoulder started bothering me, I felt winded. So, I had to sit on the side of my bed for another 30 minutes and slowly get dressed.
While experiencing flares like this, I allocate a lot of time during the day. I am a very punctual person. But that means I carve out at least a few hours to get out of the door to prepare for the hour's drive to work. I skip eating breakfast at home because it makes me too tired to eat early in the morning. After moseying to my car at around 7:30, I drive to work in the slow lane. I am careful not to pressure myself to keep up with other drivers. Gripping the wheel and driving at high speed is depleting. I permit myself to take my time. After getting off the highway and taking a few side streets, I finally arrive at work. But packing my things and exiting the car is no easy task.
Besides making sure I have my usual work items like my ID and name badge, I have to gather all of my medication, water, hand warmers, scarf, hat, and breakfast before getting out of the car. My coat has to be buttoned before leaving my car, or else the cold can worsen the flare. Putting on my coat feels like I am being stretched in a million different directions. But eventually, I pull it on just before 9 am. After taking a puff of my inhaler, I collect my things and lock my car doors. Then, I take baby steps through the parking lot, slowly cross the street, and ease my way to work. Once I reach the break room, I take the elevator to the upper level. To my relief, the cabinets are well-stocked with tea. Tea is absolutely essential for me in the morning. Tea not only keeps me warm but prevents too much phlegm from building in my chest and throat. The advantage of drinking tea is knowing that I can avoid an asthma attack in the morning. By now, it’s close to 9:30 am. Even though my shift starts at 11:30 am, my body feels like I have already worked a shift. By 9:45 am, I finally have enough energy to eat.
Flare days can turn into weeks or months for me. Having a psoriatic arthritis flare is never a one-and-done situation. That’s for sure. Daily tasks that can be so simple for an able-bodied person take hours for me to complete. Getting through the day feels like running a marathon. However, it’s important to continue to talk about the daily challenges disabled people face. This can be a teachable moment for able-bodied people. Sharing the stories of our days is crucial in expressing that even though life is hard for us, we prevail anyway.