Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Last updated: May 2022

I’ve returned to that point again, one I’m sure you’ll recognize. The dreaded flare.

Bit by bit the pain has crept back in, interrupting my sleep and turning me into a person no one particularly wants to be around.

I looked in the mirror one morning a few weeks back and saw a puffy face with frown lines and under-eye shadows.

It was the final reality check I needed; time to get back on the meds.

I’m not opposed to medication but I’ve never really liked taking it. NSAIDs affect my mood and and my digestion and I’m often lucky enough to go months without needing them. My specialist has talked about biologics a few times but agrees I don’t really need them at this stage. Over the years I’ve developed a combination of lifestyle factors that keep my AS symptoms at bay most of the time. Over the past year I’ve only needed over-the-counter meds and my ongoing dose of LDN (Low Dose Naltrexone) and it's really felt like progress.

I still have AS though, and I’m not infallible

The past two months have been rough. My lovely, larger-than-life big brother died unexpectedly just before Christmas. It was a huge shock and was immediately followed by several other distressing events within our family.

I knew my body was likely to go out in protest following this extended period of worry and sadness. Soon I was unable to sleep, go for walks or sit at my desk without pain. I became too tired to socialize or plan healthy meals or remember to drink water, and if I tried to meditate or do yoga I would just fall asleep.

The beautiful Australia summer I had planned to spend working on my fitness, entertaining friends and spending time in nature had instead become a miserable blur. One by one, many of my good habits fell by the wayside and soon I fell in a heap right beside them.

Seeing that face staring back at me from the mirror prompted me to reassess what was truly going on

There was no point in pretending and carrying on the way I was. I had to acknowledge the major obstacle getting in the way of my health and happiness; unmanaged pain that needed to be addressed.

Taking a course of NSAIDs has worked for me many times in the past. It provides a circuit-breaker which allows me to get some much-needed sleep, start moving and begin taking care of myself once again. As little as a month or two (depending on the severity of the flare) can often be all it takes to get me back on track.

Within a few days of taking the meds I was already starting to get some much needed sleep. Now, a couple of weeks down the track, I’m feeling better and am starting to bring back in the habits that help me most. I'm reminding myself that the side effects are only short term and a worthwhile means to an end. Just being aware of them helps me tolerate the foggy brain and upset stomach because I know they are better than the alternative.

Thank goodness for medication when needed! Another valuable tool in my toolkit for living well with AS.

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