Walking Along With Ankylosing Spondylitis

Do you worry a lot? Are you distracted often by ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?  Are you caught up in medical issues and miss other, more essential things?  Well, I do. I am a world-class ruminator. Sometimes my mind skips around so much that I can get distracted about almost anything. Want to know about the migration patterns of redwing blackbirds? (Spoiler alert: they do not migrate in Indiana).  I can talk about that for an hour. Hey, did you see that red car? Want to hear about potholes? Sometimes that is how my mind works.

Sometimes I think I would be better off not knowing all the possibilities, so I would worry less and be present more. But other times I get fixated on future events that I cannot control or even influence much. That is when I slip into rumination and it is constant worry that can be so destructive. I think it is even more damaging when I start to ruminate about the health consequences of AS. Will this occur if that happens?

Almost missed the Hawk

I have a new Apple watch. It is the fancy one with all the bells and whistles, many of which I have yet to figure out how to use. It looks impressive, and the best part is I can see my blood sugar on my watch 24/7/365. This alone was worth the purchase. It is so cool that I have started to look at the watch obsessively in just three short weeks. It is not that I need to be so involved. I have a modern pump that handles many of the routine tasks I used to accomplish with syringes and test strips.

What is not amazing is when I get so focused on my watch or other gadget and forget to enjoy the activity I am doing. This includes walking with Sheryl (my wife). A few days ago, we were out for our usual walk, and  I watched my blood sugar like a hawk. Had I dosed enough insulin, perhaps too much? Did I need more hard candy to keep my blood sugar up and on and on? That is when Sheryl spotted an amazing hawk staring at us from a nearby limb. I would have missed everything except for Sheryl pointing out this majestic Red Tail about to take flight. It would have been a terrible disappointment to miss seeing that hawk as it took flight.

I started thinking

That incident got me thinking. Yes, my blood sugar is critically important. Even lifesaving. But look what I could have missed. Instead of ruminating about blood sugar, I should have looked up and seen that hawk. As it turned out, my blood sugar was fine; it did not need my focus.

Do you ever focus on AS when you could focus on more important things? Does the pain and, worse yet, the anticipation of pain cause us to miss the forest as we are looking at the trees?

I hope not. I sometimes forget to focus on Sheryl, the woods, or even the cars as they buzz by.  (Not paying attention to vehicles is something Sheryl talks to me about a lot). But I do not like missing the important stuff because I am ruminating about the less important things.

Ways to break the cycle

There are some ways to break the rumination cycle and be more present.

  • Distract yourself
  • Avoid triggers
  • Check out of the worry space
  • Seek therapy if needed

I can say that distracting myself usually does not work when I am dialed into rumination. Avoiding triggers has never worked for me. I used to worry if I was not worried. Setting a  dedicated worry time never worked, either. So, what helped?

Therapy worked

For me, the most important coping mechanism I have is therapy. I do not have treatment as much these days as I once did. There have been times when I attended at least once per week. Today I go about once a month, significantly relieving my worry and stress.

When we have a chronic disease, we often need outside help to overcome the worry. I hope if you do that, you find a great therapist. They can make all the difference.

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