alt=a woman emerges from a fog, assisted by another woman and supported by a man.

Finally Finding Relief

I've had 5 long years of an agonizing flare that I thought would never subside. This journey to and through diagnosis of spondyloarthritis has seen symptoms linger, intensify, and morph. I've come to believe that this hell of a debilitating disease will last a lifetime.

From the beginning, I saw myself slowly descend into a depth of darkness I've rarely ever experienced. And I sincerely question if solace is lost to me. Opening myself up to others’ journeys and allowing myself to step into their world I have begun to realize my mental health could not and should not be taken for granted through this dark period.

The gift is that, with time, it will open a door for me to feel appropriate emotions, communicate essential needs, and advocate for my health and wellness unconditionally. With this realization, I have begun to head down a new road to finally finding relief.

The struggle

My flare began when we packed up house and moved north, a task not too difficult. One month later, at 45 years old, I was struggling to control severe joint and spine pain. I couldn’t understand why, when active, the pain intensified and knocked me on my arse. It has been difficult to sleep, terrifying to get out of bed, with horrible stiffness that wakes me.

The pain in my neck and spine is extremely debilitating, preventing me from bending over far or cleaning on a regular basis, and where walking has become an abhorrent chore. As swiftly as spondyloarthritis has shown up, persisting symptoms have been a painful reminder of how stubborn it is, preventing any respite in my life.

It's strange, this disease. One day you are able-bodied, coasting along with job duties, carrying on with friends and family get-togethers. After a week or two, in a full-body inflammatory flare, you can barely pick up a phone to call in sick or cancel outings. It’s sneaky this way. You get an achy twinge in one joint and by mid-day, you are unable to move or ambulate without assistance. Pain too much to eat, you find yourself in bed earlier than usual. You suffer through the burning, throbbing discomfort where reprieve is nowhere in sight. Tossing and turning, you beg and pray for relief and sleep, only to find no one is listening, and this particular affliction lasting another week and a half.

Once it has eased and a small slither of relief found, the pain has taken up in a different joint or the pelvis causing new grief, pillaging your body with unrelenting damage for a few more months.

Muddling through the days

As years pass, your mental health declines so much that you find yourself eventually sitting on the floor, crying your eyes out most days, unable to rise even to your knees, mostly feeling abandoned. The weight of spondyloarthritis is plentiful – grief, anger, despair, disbelief, outrage – the burden list is long.

In all honesty, I have been close to rock bottom most recently. Relationships and health and wellness are not a top priority. I find I cannot keep up, and I wander lost in a haze. For years I've known I needed help coping with not only the illness that has snuck up on me but also the trauma I've been carrying around for decades, slowly bending me more than I can resist. My mood has again gone way low and my temper très high, where any little thing sets me off, my patience quite thin, chewing up and spitting out whoever is closest.

Muddling along through the days, I am isolating and ignoring, far from being a nice friend, and not a very good partner. I don't care to cook or clean, and pain keeps me close to being in my dark room most days, only just existing. Of this, I am not proud - it’s truly hard to admit.

I've sat and read some great articles about a variety of harsh health struggles these past weeks. There's been quality time spent listening to stories, and reading poems, where I've traveled along others' journeys as they navigate through the world of chronic illnesses and mental health. I've cried my eyes out too numerous times, feeling deeply for those who have lost family members to mental illness.

With this, I've come to realize it could happen to anyone given the circumstance (look at the state of the world). Those who are manic have come to the end of their rope, convinced by a lie - they are useless, helpless, and forgotten. I've experienced this first hand. It's frightening.

Raising my spirits

Interested in others' stories as motivation to keep going, I see I am not the only one suffering from a disease. I try and use it as support, slightly raising my spirits. What I have recognized through this is that I do see chronic illness taking a huge toll on my mental state. I truly wonder how others get through their days feeling forever low like this.

For a while now I've not had the urge to move forward. I am not sure how I got up this morning, where I currently sit at my desk spilling out my broken heart. How do I lift my head off the pillow each morning, put one foot in front of the other, or be productive when I am struggling with so much depression and anxiety. Am I trying to prove to myself I am not totally broken, struggling to reassure myself that I can make it because others have? Comparing never helped me.

Days can get very bad for me. On good days I ruminate, on dreadful days when disease burden is at its worst, and I see the only way back to sanity is to ask for help. I have put this off, delaying therapy for years. Hesitating to open up, I have such a disabling fear about going. Will, I actually make it out of the house, what of the fear of judgment, of how inadequately I express my feelings, and most importantly of how I manage through the frustrating tribulations coming with therapy?

Coping the past 5 years with chronic inflammatory arthritis, the brute of anxiety has grown exponentially and is totally overpowering and governing every little aspect of my life, making me quite manic and weary.

Finding peace

Will I be able to get back to me through this? I know it's time to put down my burdens. I want to find peace, to be okay inside my skin, find a way to allow forgiveness, stop with the blame, and rise from the floor of pity and sorrow. To finally find relief, I put in a call to mental health practitioner this past week. I know it will take time to move away from this state of panic, stress, and anxiety. Even if only for a moment, on good or blah days, I know I need to recognize and celebrate any relief I do get, and cherish it as a gift. This is a new journey I embark on – for my mental health and wellness.

  • How do you know when a situation in your life has reached the level of a crisis and you should seek help?
  • What additional resources have you used to better your mental health?
  • Are you finally finding relief?

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