Learning to Trust My Body Again
I was always someone who would tell my doctor "I don't need a flu shot, I never get sick." I had perfect attendance all through high school. I pushed my body to its physical limits and it never faltered. I had never even broken a bone or sprained an ankle. The first true sick day I ever took from work was because my hips were in so much pain I could barely get out of bed. I quickly became angry because I didn’t understand what was going on, and my body "failing" was seriously abnormal for me.
A body that can't move from the couch
Ankylosing spondylitis took a body that I had always been so confident was invincible and capable of incredible strength and endurance, and turned it into a body that I couldn’t even trust to get me from the couch to my bed. AS made me angry at my body, and made me lose trust in its abilities. It took months of frustration and fear before I finally turned the corner and began trusting my body again.
Taking a toll
Anyone with AS or a similar disease knows the physical toll that it takes on you, but sometimes it's easy to forget about the mental and emotional toll. I became constantly anxious and afraid that I would be in too much pain to walk, or that I would suddenly become violently ill from the medications I was taking. Fears I had never experienced before now totally consumed me, and my daily life was now being hijacked by the worry that my body would unexpectedly fail me. I was afraid to be away from home in case I got sick or experienced a serious flare, and my life was truly starting to be controlled by the fears of what my disease could do to me.
There's no magic solution
I wish I could say that there was a magic solution to my fear and anxiety that came with being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I wish I could give everyone struggling to trust their body again a trick to get there faster. I even wish I could say that it was a simple “ah-ha!” moment that changed my perspective. But the best tip I can give is simply that it takes time, but you can trust that trust will come.
A new perspective
I have gained a new perspective on trusting my body, and have learned to reconsider what “failing” means. Some days I have pain and need to rest, but need to remember that my body is literally attacking itself, and still managing to support me more often than not. Medication and lifestyle changes have definitely played a role, but really that is just part of the mutual support I now recognize- I give my body support, and it can be supportive of me in return.
Moving to acceptance
I accept that sometimes I am physically limited. I am so grateful for the quality of life I am still able to lead, and I recognize that my future may not allow for the same activity levels that I maintain today. Whether I continue hiking and running, or need mobility aids in my daily life, I am learning to appreciate the incredible things that my body is doing in the face of AS, and every single day I am gaining back the respect and trust that I so quickly had lost.Have you been angry, frustrated, or lost trust in your body? Have you started to love and appreciate it again? What helped you get to this point?
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?