Sunday, August 16, 2009

Visualization Helps During RA Panic Moment

We had an awesome ride today. The weather was humid which slowed me down a bit but I did fine. The trail today wasn't as busy as yesterday which was great because it has more downhills so you can go as fast as you want. I love that! After a difficult climb up it is awesome to glide all the way down. My shoulders relax, my mind feels clear and I am completely content with life.

On the drive to the forest preserve, I was thinking about how far I have come in the last year. Last summer my fingers were so stiff I didn't trust myself to pull on the brakes of the bike. My wrists and shoulders were weak and every bump hurt. My knees were swollen and peddling just hurt. This severely limited our riding time. This last week and a half I have felt energized by riding. It is almost as if my body can't get enough. I wake up looking forward to the day's ride. I go to bed tired, but it's a good tired.

With so many good days and more physical activity than I have had in a while, I have been reminding myself that any day I may wake up and my knee will be fully swollen and painful again. I know it can happen. I have been through this enough times. But, I keep visualizing myself the way I want to be. I see my left knee the size of my right. I see myself riding into November and putting biking gear on my Christmas list. I see spring coming and hopping back on my bike without any problems. Visualization can create great things and I am keeping those thoughts in my mind because that is my goal.

So, when I downloaded our photos from the ride, I saw how large my left knee still looks compared to my right and panicked. "Oh no! I am not doing as well as I thought!" The swelling has gone down a lot but to look at this photo, I can still see it has a long ways to go. This is when I discovered how far I have come. As soon as the panic entered my mind, I wiped it out. I have had over a week and a half of long rides, walking, and swimming everyday! I haven't had hardly any pain and I can feel my knee cap again. That is progress.

I decided not to focus on the negative but focus on the positive. Regularly visualizing good things for ourselves makes it easier to return to that place during panic moments. I removed the negative from my mind and replaced it with the photo below. Here we are 1/3 of the way through the ride. I sat on Steve's lap and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Sitting in his arms enjoying an activity we have both always enjoyed together is how I want to remember this day. I am making tremendous progress and although I still have a ways to go, I need to focus on where I have come rather than where I need to be.


  1. Cathy:
    You are such a mentor to me and always so positive. I love the pic of you and Steve and that was what the ride was all about. Soon, I hope, I will at least be able to swim! Still healing!

  2. I think both photos are great. It's not often you can look at one picture and feel panic and then look at another and remember what a great time you had together as a family.

    I often think that is that true goal with RA is finding that balance between how much of your life RA takes. You acknowledged it was a part of your biking trip but you didn't let it ruin the trip for you.

    Personally, I think that's's one of the things I struggle with.

    Love seeing pictures of you being happy.

  3. I know what you mean when you've spent time doing something that makes you forget about the arthritis, then a visual image makes you starkly aware of its' presence. But you are right to listen to your body rather than just look at it, that's far more telling and you are obviously aware - but do balance the activity with rest please Mrs.! You know it makes sense!

  4. This post really helped me. It was just the reminder that I needed at the moment for the health challenges that I am going through. Thanks Cathy! It's often in our darkest moments that we need to remember to replace the thoughts with positive ones. It's the hardest, it seems, to think positive when we aren't feeling good.

  5. Love your bike!! I want a pink bike with a carrier for Jace so we can ride all over the place.