Red Cape… I Wish!

Let’s face it; I love physical ability, physique, and a healthy lifestyle. I love to workout, lift weights, run the canal, hike the mountains, kayak, play sports, snowboard, and compete. I love to push my heart rate and to sweat profusely. Yep, I am crazy to some people.

Sunday, I walked into the gym. I typically do hot yoga at 10 AM, however Saturday I got a wildhair and decided to go and get my old cultish cross tattoo covered up. Needless to say, after a solid 3-hours on a table with a needle branding my body and enhancing my soul, lying in corpse pose was not an option. Therefore, yoga was out and legs were in. So there I was with my SoMo blaring in my headphones and my heart pumping while doing box jumps, weighted lunges, step ups, and deadlifts; set after set. I went to go and put the barbell up and a gentleman says “Wow, you are breathing super heavy.” I actually didn’t hear him at first, so I took my headphones off to ask what he said. He then says “All you need is a red cape, because you are a real life example of Wonder Woman.” I chuckled and said “I wish, but honey, I am just a real life example of someone who tries hard, but thank you for that sweet comment. You are welcome to work in anytime.” He laughed and said “No way, I think I would pass out. I have seen how you train people.”

People believe that getting up and fighting through it every day comes easy for me. They look at me and often think I am living with no pain. “What?! You have RA?” Most people think my splints are the result of me crashing on my bike or some athletic accident. Lately, when people ask how I broke my wrist, I say “I didn’t break my wrist, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and basically these splints are the result of the disease.” I get the odd look of puzzlement or the classic response “oh, that sucks.” Yes, it does suck, but it’s what life dealt me and what I have to work with.

The hardest part about this disease is it temporarily stops me in my tracks. It can disable me without much warning. On the days when the pain is intense, like today, all I want to do is lie down and go back to sleep. For a few minutes I think to myself “If I just sleep today then maybe tomorrow it won’t be there.” I wish I could say that was the answer, but it’s not. It’s absolutely not. After many years of living with this disease, I have found out through trial and error what works. For me, moving is the answer. The worst thing a person can do who lives with RA is stay in bed. Not moving is what the disease wants you to do. It wants you to get depressed and lay there in misery because then it can run through the maze of joints and find its hiding place. That is how it gets you, wins you, and takes over who you are. Tonight, I put my workout clothes on and made it to the gym. It wasn’t high intensity, but it was a quality one muscle group workout with the intent to get it done. The result: I feel so much better!

I have a powerful mindset that continues to work through the pain every day. I don’t know where it comes from, I just know that my desire is to be as active as I can be. I know I will never be the same as the athlete back in the day, but I can be the best athletic me that I believe is possible today. We all can! I don’t know what it’s like to wake up and not feel pain for even five seconds. It’s always with me because that is what chronic pain represents: endlessness.

Although a red cape isn’t part of my wardrobe and I don’t have any special powers like Wonder Woman, perhaps I will just continue to try to be “super and a wonder” in my own right. I will always be a woman who lives with RA, but I will strive to not let it define my life. I will continue to get up each day and reach for the goals that I dream about at night. May I continue to encourage others who know what endless pain feels like, whether physical or emotional, know that you can do anything you set your mind to do with a cape or not.

Make it Count by putting on your very own cape and fly towards making your life pain free.

Ashley Stevenson