How Living with PsA is Like Riding a Roller Coaster

I spend a lot of time at Disneyland. While I always expect to have a magical visit, I never expected that thrill rides would better provide lessons about living with psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and endometriosis.

The unexpected

Roller coasters have unexpected turns and drops. The same can be said about my chronic illnesses. I never know what each day or hour will bring. My pain level could go up or down without notice. Sometimes the drop or rise of pain is minimal and at other times it is steep. One moment I may be able to walk with minimal pain and the next require a wheelchair. Some assume that the longer one lives with a chronic condition the easier it gets to predict these drops and turns. I have ridden Space Mountain and California Screamin’ countless times, yet there are always a few drops or turns that catch me by surprise. That is what it is like living with a chronic illness. There are times when I can see the signs of an oncoming flare, but not always.

Full speed ahead

Every roller coaster at Disneyland has a combination of slow and fast moving tracks. There are slow uphill climbs or fast falls. Similarly, there are times when my conditions aren’t as bad as other times and I am able to follow a daily routine for days or weeks at a time and others when I am hanging on for dear life and just pray that I survive. The more I ride Disneyland’s thrill rides and the longer I live with my chronic illnesses the better I become at calming my fear of the unknown, breathing through the tough times, and remembering that I will survive.

Life lesson

When riding a roller coaster there are times when I am able to ride hands-free and only need to brace myself with my legs and feet. Other times I hold on to the safety bar so tightly my knuckles turn white. My chronic life is no different. There are some symptoms that I have come accustomed to and only need to make a few modifications to my daily life and others that freak me out so badly that all I can do is hold tight and wait for the flare to end. The only difference between my conditions and riding a roller coaster is that while I can get off a ride at Disneyland, my chronic coaster has no end or exit.

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