What is a Flare? One Frustrated Patient’s Definition
Last updated: September 2020
When I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and started learning about it, I frequently ran across others with psoriatic arthritis discussing “flares.” I thought, "How will I know when I have a flare? I pretty much feel crappy all of the time now. How could it be worse?” About a week later, I had the answers I needed to my question.
What is a flare?
A flare is basically death. Death wrapped up in a neat bow. A bow made up of a fever, swollen joints, overwhelming fatigue, with a bit more than a dash of brain fog to round it all out. I’m sure the doctor’s have some more highly refined and descriptive definition of a flare, but that is mine. You might think I’m being a tad bit dramatic, but I assure you, I am not.
Why is it even called a flare?
Will flames shoot out of my hands when I have one? Do I need to send one up as a warning to others? Don’t come near me. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even look at me funny or I might hurt you. Drop the remote and back away slowly. Or better yet, go to the store and buy me new pjs. Or chocolate. Either way, this is a warning flare. I feel like I should be like one of those warlocks on TV that shoots fire out of my hands. That is what a flare should be. (Go ahead, picture it, I know you are.) That would be epic.
Help during a flare
Heat, hot, scorching flare. What should I do? Stick my head in a freezer? Sleep in a meat locker? Take an ice bath? The term flare suggests that any or all of those will help. But will they? Ummm. No. Not really. Nothing will. Don’t you remember? Or did the brain fog get you again? I’ll remind you, a flare is basically death.
Flares and relationships
How am I supposed to even attempt to explain this to my friends in a way that they might understand? A typical conversation goes something like this:
Me: Ah, yeah. I have to cancel. I’m not feeling so well. I’m having a flare.
Them: Flare? Is that like a baby? Having a baby? Having a party? Like a flare? Woohoo!
Me: Um. No. Not so much. Really, not at all. It’s like… (blah blah blah, it doesn’t much matter what else I say here as even with my hearing issues, I’m pretty sure I can actually hear them rolling their eyes and thinking, “again…?”)
Them: Well, okay I guess. Get better soon.
Me: AAARRRGGGHHHHH. IT IS CHRONIC! I will NEVER GET BETTER!
So I’ve decided to not call it a flare anymore. From now on, it will be a Spoonie Moment. Yep, you read that right. Old people get away with Senior Moments all the time. Why can’t the chronically ill people get away with Spoonie Moments? Like, a free pass to feel like garbage with no further explanations needed. Yes, I think it is time to forget the word flare. Which won’t be so hard with all this brain fog…
Now, I shall leave you to your day, while I crawl under my blanket with my remote, pjs, heating pad, and Netflix. Leave me alone, I’m having a flare Spoonie Moment.
***Please note, this is written with just a dash actually, a whole truckload, of sarcasm. Sometimes it helps me deal with the pain a little easier, and I have found that laughter is really the best medicine. If you don’t want to take it in the spirit it is intended, that is fine, just scroll on…***
Do you usually need to recover from a vacation?