Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rain

      Yesterday was one of those gloomy days, when the sky was dark and the world was wet. As many of you all know, stormy weather tends to cause arthritis flares/additional stiffness and pain, and this was certainly true for me yesterday. In the middle of my final recitation of the day, I realized that I could not make a fist without experiencing pain so excruciating that my whole face would have crinkled up uncomfortably. Walking caused me to wince. Clenching my jaw in response to the pain only made the arthritis in my jaw hurt worse. It was one of those days.

    Of course, the intense rain also reminds me of New Orleans. There is nothing that I would love to do more right now than wade through foot-deep puddles on my way to the French Quarter Market, befriending a moderately intoxicated bachelorette party on the streetcar along the way. I missed my Tulane friends with heightened intensity; it was like the clouds were dumping alcohol into my open wound. When I silenced my mind and concentrated solely on the rain, I felt like I was back in New Orleans.

Polk Place - photo from www.unc.edu
     I am determined not to allow arthritis to dampen my life activities, and so I was still excited to go grocery shopping with a friend yesterday afternoon and explore more of the area surrounding campus. When we stepped onto the first bus, I felt a wave of fear. It is difficult to be in large vehicles that start and stop abruptly and rattle up my bones. It is almost impossible to stay balanced when your knees bend backwards and your hips are unsteady and your fingers cannot grip tightly enough for railings to be of any use.

     As I was making my way towards the back, I saw my sweet friend Annabelle. In our short conversation, she imparted that she knew the weather was hard on my joints and asked how I was feeling. I had not confessed the pain to a single soul. I felt like it was completely invisible, a boring topic that none of my friends would want to discuss. It was by no means some of the worst pain I have experienced, but it was uncomfortable and distracting. "Let me know if you need help with anything," Annabelle offered with utmost sincerity, and I knew she meant it.

     My first two-ish weeks at UNC have been wonderful. I have had the opportunity to reconnect with so many friends and my classes are phenomenal. I definitely picture the next three years here as happy ones. I have found organizations and people that I love. But none of this cures arthritis, and so I am learning to cope in a new setting, with new friends and professors and places.

     Thankfully, I went to bed last night not feeling too ill. A hot shower helped to reheat my joints and loosen them up. I drifted off to sleep feeling warm and cozy. More importantly, thanks to Annabelle, I drifted off to sleep feeling supported, validated, and loved.

     I wonder if I will ever feel raindrops splash against my skin without thinking of New Orleans. I wonder if I will ever step into a bus without fear. I wonder if the people around me have any inkling of the pain associated with my illness. I wonder how much to tell them. Mostly, I wonder how I am lucky enough to know people like Annabelle.

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