Tolerances

Once again, I am back. It’s been an interesting few months for me, but I am not really all that crazy about looking back on it. Suffice it to say I feel like RA may have taken over for a bit but I am working on clawing my way back to where I want to be.

Our first show of the season is this Saturday. Or so goes the theory. If I learned anything last year it is that you may have your entries in and ride times sent out but the show doesn’t happen until you are entering the arena. I don’t feel quite as ready as I want to be, but we have worked hard over the winter so I feel like at least Strider and I are further along than we were last year. We are still sticking to easy stuff, especially since show nerves have been a consistent struggle for me. My trainer finally got to witness my show nerves (she was inGermanyfor the one show I got to do last year) and her assignment to me was to show as much as possible! One of my friends suggested I slip some Irish Cream in my coffee on show mornings. My goal for this show is to just go out and focus on helping Strider as best I can and accept the fact that we won’t be perfect. I will let you know how it turns out.

But I actually had a bit of a point I wanted to make as well. In the struggles of the past few months I have learned that not only is each person’s situation with RA or other autoimmune diseases different, but also there is another key deciding factor to what each person can and cannot do. Very much depends on tolerances. Here is what I mean by that.

 The tolerances of anything basically describe what it is it can handle. Depending on what the object is the tolerances can be described in a variety of ways, but with autoimmune diseases there are some key descriptors I have found for myself at least.

 Recently I have discovered two of my own tolerances- pain and energy. I know I can withstand X amount of pain on a certain day, but only if I have a certain amount of energy. Each tolerance will be slightly related. If I decrease energy then my ability to push through pain will decrease. If I increase pain my energy will decrease. So much of learning to actually live with RA for me comes down to finding where my energy and pain tolerances are and try to make sure I am balancing them appropriately. If I push through too much pain, I lose enough energy I have to crash, if I push through a lack of energy for too long; I end up in more pain.

I mostly discover my limits with work and running. I now know that I cannot work a 50+ hour week, run 10 miles a week, ride my horse 4 times, and then expect not to have consequences. It may seem obvious but I used to do so much more in a week. I am slowly but surely getting better at planning my week so I get to comfortable levels of everything: running maybe 6 miles each week (though I wish it was more….more on that in a moment), riding three or four times, and working under 45 hours. Then add in a night really and truly off- such as a knitting meet up with my friend, or a night at home watching tv with my husband or even by myself. I am slowly figuring out where the right balance point is; what my tolerances really are.

 One point of surprise for many people, even who know me well, is that I still try to run. I usually get a reaction of surprise that I can run or a reaction of surprise that I think it’s a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, running is probably not the ideal sport for many people with RA. I am not completely bonkers (well, maybe I am, but I am pretty rational when it comes to other people). But the more I thought about why running is important to me the more I recognized a few key points. First, every run feels like a victory for me. It doesn’t matter how painful, how short, how hard, or how slow, but every run I complete makes me feel like I have won a small battle against RA. Additionally, I realized running for me is different than for many people. Pain is a constant. Not a little- a lot of pain. But because I know that at least most of the time I am not doing myself harm by running I push through the pain. It may be a struggle to walk, to pick up a cup, to do buttons, wash my hair, or make my bed, but running, though painful, is me choosing to challenge the pain. So it’s not so much that I can run, it’s that I make myself run. It is once again about tolerances. Sometimes for a mental victory, it is worth physical pain. Sometimes I just can’t work myself up to it though.

 It all comes down to balance though. I can only knit for so long before my hands give me trouble, I can only run so much before the pain is too much and I can only work so many hours before I lose the energy to even move. I think regardless of whether you are totally healthy or are struggling with an autoimmune issue, we would all do well to know our limits, find what we want to tolerate, and work towards balancing our lives in a way we can enjoy and maintain. What in your life is worth it to you to push through something unpleasant?

 That is all for now. Hopefully I will have a show report early next week. Until next time….RAWR!!!

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