I wrote an article for my adaptive outdoors organization, pretty much my first piece of serious prose since my last brain injury. I'm proud of it, so I thought I'd share.
The Vocabulary of Pain
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in November after several years of increasing joint pain. This is only the latest in a long list of chronic conditions that haunt me, but it has been difficult to find my equilibrium. RA is a disease of the immune system, one which can affect any system of the body, and not just the joints. The drugs used to treat it are immunosuppressants, and can be as hard to deal with as the disease itself. This has not been a fun ride, but as I slowly come to terms with it I find myself learning the words pain wants to teach me. They’re small words, easy to say and hard to forget. Words like ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’, words that limit and corral me in new and horrible ways. Words have always been my friends, my dearest companions in dark places and hard times. It has been awful to listen to the slow decline of my inner vocabulary into syllables of defeat and depression.
Then Kerri called me from CRIS Adaptive Adventures. She offered me time in a kayak, on an adaptive hike, time in a recumbent bike. Last week I joined the summer students on the KVR. The day was perfect for August; hot and clear with a clean little breeze to dry the sweat and keep us smiling. I heard that inner monologue change. All of those nasty little defeatist words crumbled under the power of one more – adapt. I can adapt. I will not listen to pain any more. It has a place in my life, but I will not permit it to rule. CRIS gave me back my summer, gave me back the sense of who I am. I am more than pain says I am, I am capable and adaptable and I am strong. Society seems to equate disability with weakness, but this is far from the truth. It is my adversities that strengthen me, that give me a breadth of experience that can benefit not only me, but others. I can change the vocabulary of my pain because I must. I thank CRIS for giving me the people and places that make this change possible.