|Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
From Exhaustion to Exhilarating
Part 1 of 2.
Heal your Heart - Love your Body - Live your Joy!
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*Track 3 is a powerful and easy way to bring healing on an emotional level.
It seems to me that there is a similarity between Rheumatoid Arthritis,
Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. No one seems to know what causes
them. There is no cure for them. They all rob you of energy, fill you with
aches and pain; and make life seem like nothing more than an existence. A
good day means that you exist well enough to function in a most basic way
and can accomplish the most fundamental tasks. A bad day takes you
hostage, and simply having air on your skin can hurt. Sometimes, the pain
can be so bad that you feel like you have drain cleaner or acid travelling
through your veins. Sometimes, the fatigue is so severe that you feel that
when you drop, it will be into the black hole, into the abyss, and a dull
panic sets in. I used to refer to it, as the living dead - being alive without
having a life.
I finally have my life back and it's better than ever. I feel and look years
younger. I am pain free and have enough energy to live a better than
normal life. The information I wish to share with you today is simple and
effective, I am indulging myself here and giving you my personal story.
I was diagnosed with RA around twenty years ago. This is my story, and
although to many people a lot of this information will not be relevant to
them, I am going to include as much of my own story as I can recall,
because somewhere, someone, is going to make a connection that may
change their life, or like me, ‘totally re-invent themselves.’
For many years, I suffered fatigue. Every time that I mentioned it to a
doctor, they simply concluded that it was an iron deficiency and sent me off
to eat more meat or take supplements. I was usually pretty conscious of
diet as I was working in a weight loss clinic at the time, and had a very
healthy respect for and knowledge of good nutrition. I'd take the iron, I
would pick up a bit and life went on, but I never really had enough energy. I
simply managed to get through each day and get what needed to be done
I used to love to party, loved the dressing up, it was the 80’s and boy did
we know how to dress up and party. I loved to drink and had a great bunch
of mates who would play and laugh and dance all night long. One night, we
had a large table booked at a Greek restaurant. It was one of those funny,
crazy nights, where we drank champagne and cocktails until we were
almost legless. (Excuse the pun, this story is leading up to my literally
becoming legless.) I was wearing strappy little stiletto shoes and dancing
like a mad Greek to 'Zorba', spinning faster and faster, while plates where
thrown at the wall and laughing so hard that I fell. There went my knee!
A few days later, I found that I couldn't stand and that my knee was as
large as a rock- melon (cantaloupe). My guess was that I had torn the
cartilage and went off to the doctor. He recommended that I have X-rays
and I went home to rest and ice-pack it. The X-rays didn’t show any
damage, but two months later, I was still walking with crutches and my knee
was still painful and swollen.
Many specialists, tests and finally an arthroscopy later, I was told that it
wasn't conclusive, but that I had a pre-disposition for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Who knows what that means! I was sent to a rheumatologist, who advised
that it was rheumatoid arthritis. He further went on to explain that arthritis
has over a hundred disguises, and they didn’t know what caused it and
they didn’t know how to cure it. He did believe that he knew how to stop the
pain and swelling and repress its progression. Back in the 80’s, AIDS was
big news and at the time they had ads on TV showing the Grim Reaper.
This rheumatologist looked and sounded just like the Grim Reaper. I was
stunned and angry. Pictures of my mother came into my mind. (she has
suffered terribly for many years with arthritis) and I was suddenly an old
lady whose destiny had just been dramatically changed forever.
He outlined a course of drug therapy and casually mentioned that I'd be
taking these drugs indefinitely, even though the disease would in fact get
progressively worse - he called it management. Now I've read enough and
know enough to know that drugs always have a down side, and my first line
of fire would be some form of natural therapy. He mentioned the name of
the drug that he was prescribing, and I asked him about side effects. He
said that in rare cases you could go blind. I laughed nervously for a minute
and then screamed at him. I was actually blaming him at the time, as I felt
that prior to seeing him, I didn’t have arthritis and in fact, I didn't have it
right up until he said I did. In my mind, at that moment, it was like he had
actually handed me a ticket and said, “Now here, this is what you have for
My last words to him were, "I came in here unable to walk. Now you say you
can help me walk, but I won't be able to see where I'm walking to". I got into
my friend’s car and said, "That guy’s a lunatic" and burst into tears.I went
back to him a few days later, knowing that I would not be taking his drugs
or any of his advice, but I did want to collect my X-rays and the results of
the blood test.
He had a pen, which was floating above the desk, and I asked how it
worked. He said that a sales representative had been in and it was a
gimmicky advertising thing. The pen was being held up with magnets or
something. The interesting thing though, is that he mentioned that the rep
was selling fish oil capsules. I had read about cod liver oil being beneficial
to RA, so asked him for more information. He said he didn't think that it
would be of much use and again pressed the importance of the ‘Going
blind drug’. I left and bought myself some fish oil, it was called Lipidic. I was
advised by my chemist, who was a Naturopath, to take 6 capsules a day.
Since then, fish oil has become hugely popular, as the importance of
Omega oils are now widely accepted as having major health benefits.
Fish oil is not a cure for arthritis. It is a really good anti-inflammatory, which
greatly reduced the pain. The pain was the biggest hurdle, but the fatigue
was now becoming a major problem. I was still not putting the R.A. and
fatigue into the same basket. I thought that they were separate things, and
that the extreme tiredness was once again an iron deficiency. I was not a
vegetarian, so I didn't know why I would be lacking in iron. At that time, I ate
liver twice a week to try and combat the fatigue.
One morning, I slid off the bed and waited until I could put my foot on the
floor and walk. This had become a morning ritual. You don't just stand up
and walk, you wait a few minutes as you gradually apply pressure until you
feel confident enough to take a step. You then hold your hand on the wall
to keep from falling, and make your way to the kitchen for a coffee. One
morning, I managed to take the twenty or so steps, only to find myself so
extremely tired that I leaned against the kitchen cupboard and breathed
like an athlete after a marathon. I thought to myself, "I’m F....d".
Later that day, I took raw liver and pressed it through the juice extractor. I
was so desperate, that all I wanted was instant iron. This was my idea of
the biggest and fastest dose that I could get. I knew that it was going to
taste disgusting, so I poured a large glass of water with lemon juice, so I
could wash the liver juice down after I had drunk it. It didn't help the taste at
all! liver juice does not slide down, it grabs your teeth, tongue and throat
and stays with you, and you burp up the blood-taste for days. It was the
worse thing I have ever tasted. It did restore my energy level, but I would
never do it again. The next few years were broken down into ordinary days
and bad days.
When your health goes - everything goes. You can't fight a good fight
when you are in pain and exhausted, things come undone and then
everything goes quickly. I wasn't able to work, and my shop wasn't making
enough to pay the rent. I had taken a second mortgage on the house. The
bank was ringing constantly and threatening to sell my home. My eyes had
permanent black rings around them, my hair was dry and brittle and I was
so thin my friends thought that I had cancer.
Three months later and I was still on crutches. I closed the shop and had to
apply for government assistance to live. At the same time, interest rates
went up and my mortgage repayments were greater than my income. Each
month, the debt grew, until finally I sold the house, paid the bank and
actually came out of it debt free with some spare cash, but, with no home,
no business and no way that I could work at a regular job. I am mentioning
this here, because I later learned the role of prolonged stress in
relationship to disease, fatigue and pain.
The fish oil was working pretty well, the stress level was reduced and I
started to think that I might have a chance at being normal again. At this
time, the swelling in my knee was greatly reduced and the pain was
manageable. The knee had become rather deformed looking and
enlarged. I had lost a lot of the muscle tone in my leg, and the leg seemed
thinner than my arms, except for the giant knee. I took myself off to an
Osteopath, who was so concerned about it, that he actually gave me free
sessions for a few weeks. (I was still on sickness benefits and couldn't
afford to pay him.) He had me off the crutches and walking within a few
weeks. He insisted that I should sit in a swimming pool, and move the knee
as much as I could to get the muscles back. This was a real turning point,
and I highly recommend osteopathy and gentle water exercise. No matter
how painful a joint is, it must be moved to flush away the sludge and to
strengthen the muscles.
It is a good idea to see an Osteopath every six to twelve months, as most
of us favour one side of the body due to the other side being painful. It is
very easy to walk lop-sided when one side is in pain. Gentle manipulation
greatly improves circulation and flexibility, and is very beneficial, as quite
often we throw the entire body out of alignment.
Over the next few years, I tried everything - except prescribed drugs. I
spent vast amounts of money on natural and alternative therapies, and
discovered many things that were just plain rip offs, and a lot of things that
helped. I had more good days than bad days. I even had the occasional
excellent day. I had learned to pace myself. I was very careful with diet and
sleep. I came to the conclusion, pretty early on, that most of the natural
therapies had anti-inflammatory properties. Some were very expensive and
no better than other cheaper things. The fish oil was great, but cost a lot
each month. I later got sensible enough to work out that I only needed to
replace meat with fish, and that I would also gain the additional benefits of
all the other nutrients in fish.
Ginger also seemed to be a good anti-inflammatory, so I would sip lemon,
ginger and honey in water throughout the day. Chinese herbs were good,
as were homeopathy and acupuncture treatments, but very expensive and
not better than fish oils or ginger. Green lip mussel capsules and
glucosamine are other expensive ways of eating seafood.
I tried Minocycline for a while and it seemed to help the fatigue as well as
the R.A., but it concerned me to be taking long-term antibiotics so I gave
them away as well.
A few years later, I became complacent and thought that I was doing okay,
until one night my entire body seemed to have ignited. I thought about that
spontaneous human combustion documentary I had seen on television,
and waited expectantly to burst into flames. I imagined myself as ‘Ash in a
pair of slippers’. Instead, I burst into tears and my flatmate had to carry me
to bed and call a Locum, as it was late at night. I waited four agonizing
hours before he arrived. At that point, I didn't care what drugs he put into
me and even euthanasia was an acceptable and desirable possibility. The
Locum convinced me that I must take prescribed medication as he noticed
that my feet were now becoming deformed, my hands were beginning to
look gnarly and I was in big trouble.
I took the drugs for a number of years, and went on like most R.A.,
sufferers: getting through the days as an almost normal person, pacing
myself and doing as little as I could. Every free weekend was an
opportunity to sleep. I was back at work and most days were good days. In
the back of my mind I resented it all greatly. My searching and
experimenting went on. I was convinced that there was something else,
something simple and something that would permanently cure this thing.
I had finally made the connection that the fatigue was a symptom of R.A.
The fatigue was really my biggest problem at this point. The pain was
under control, but this fatigue was so overwhelming. I found myself having
to explain myself to people, and I avoided going out with people I didn't
know well. In fact, I pretty much avoided going out at all. I found myself, on
a number of occasions, sitting in a restaurant and ‘down would come the
curtain’ in an instant. This is not tired like, ‘I should be getting home now’,
this is more like a panic attack. You feel that you have about two minutes
to explain to people that you are about to permanently and totally drop
through the floor and disappear forever. I would sleep for twelve hours,
wake up tired and still take an afternoon nap. No matter how much I slept, I
always woke up tired. Around this time, I had pretty much given up drinking
alcohol, as I had pin-pointed it as a major antagonist. Red wine especially
affected me like a Mogadon.
I ate well and paid attention to diet. I had a kitchen bench full of vitamin
supplements and rarely ate junk food. I had cut my twelve cups of coffee
down to one a day. One day, I was in a situation where I had no option but
to eat a hamburger, I was starving and didn't care. Within minutes of eating
it I fell into a deep sleep - I finally got it. I had read about food combining
and sort of saw sense in it, but never really applied it. But, in that moment, I
looked at all the protein and fat in the hamburger. It contained meat,
cheese, bacon and egg, I also acknowledged the high content of salt. I sat
and thought about when I most seriously had felt exhausted in the past, I
thought about where I was, what I was doing and what I was eating.
copyright Sonya Green
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