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How the Changing Weather Affects My Chronic Pain

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Autumn, like a breath of fresh air it waltzes into the room. With that breath comes a change, a goodbye. For many it signifies the closing of a carefree, fun summer season. Leaving in its wake warm memories laced with a tinge of sadness that life is returning to its daily grind. Summer is often looked upon by many as a respite from life and work.

As a person with Lyme Disease, summer is always a desperate trial for me. From the minute the weather warms above 70 degrees, I struggle to function in the South’s sweltering humidity and heat. The stifling hot air smothers my every breath. My achy joints swell, and pain levels rise. Fatigue comes crushing down on my shoulders. I feel like a sloth swimming in peanut butter.

For me autumn is the respite that summer is for so many others. I welcome the milder weather it ushers in. Before winter’s icy fingers come and rest on my shoulders, autumn is like a balm to my feverish, aching joints. Not too hot, not too cold and if I’m lucky not too damp, it is a season of moderation. A season of laying to rest the toils of the summer heat.

With Lyme disease at the “helm” of my life, mild is like my heaven. If I lived in a perfect world, the weather would be a constant early autumn morning. Bright, sunny, and gently cool with little chance of rain. The perfect forecast for my tired body. Just enough warmth in the air to be a soothing balm on my painful muscles and joints, with little humidity and a gentle breeze.

But unfortunately, this perfect world does not exist. Although, I will be the first to admit it is lovely here in this part of the country. North Carolina is full of green trees, flower gardens, blue skies, mountains, beaches and all that lies between. Here the weather is a constant raging ball of change.

It ranges from scorching, hot, humid summers to icy, treacherous winters. I am constantly seeking the balance that comes with autumn’s relief. I am thankful to live in a state that experiences a very real changing of the seasons. Although, to be honest I could well live without the dreaded winters and blistering summers. I could easily settle for variations of our North Carolina spring and autumn all year round.

This year I am extra anxious to see autumn arrive. This summer season has been one long battle for me. Heat and humidity have been my constant enemies. My body simply cannot take either one. The humidity causes my joints to hurt and swell. If my body temperature rises too high, I experience massive flare ups of Lyme symptoms. Apparently, Lyme hates heat. My blood pressure goes haywire, I get dizzy and have terrible fatigue and headaches. In short I am completely miserable.

With all of the recent stormy weather off the east coast due to hurricane Matthew, my body is in a bit of a “Tizzy,” (as us Southerners like to say.)  My joints are in dire need of a break from the damp and humidity that is synonymous with summers in the South.

I am so grateful that summer’s heat is slowly fading. But, with that reprieve comes a dread.  Something that puts a fear in me far worse than the unrelenting heat of the sunny season.

In a word, winter. That word alone has the power to make me cringe. The cold an even bigger enemy than the heat. The ache I feel every day in my bones and joints is magnified ten fold when the temperature drops below 60 degrees.  My fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome kick into overdrive. I feel as if I have a never ending winter flu. I am so exhausted I feel like a hibernating bear. I dread the cold I know is right around the bend a few turns north of autumn. I am in a constant struggle to accept the current weather situation while dreading what’s coming next.

I spend all winter trying to “Keep warm.” Warm enough so my Raynaud’s disease will not kick in and make my toes and fingers turn 50 shades of blue, numb and clumsy. It is a constant struggle between too hot and too cold. If I cover with a quilt I’m too hot and my body lets me know by promptly running a low grade fever. If I don’t cover up, I’m too cold and spend the day in a shivering misery. I have yet to find the solution to this problem.

Several winters ago, I ended up with a migraine that lasted for three solid months. I was so weak, dizzy and nauseated I rarely moved off the couch. I had just had a severe anaphylactic reaction and could not take my medication. It was quite literally one of the most miserable seasons of my life. My joint pain was at an all time high, and I had no medicine to counter the deep, throbbing ache that accompanied it. This is exactly what I picture when I think of winter. It is no small wonder that I fear it.

I am always amazed at how I can predict changes in the weather before I have even read the forecast. My body could be a barometer. I wonder if I they would hire me down at the local weather station? This could be a new career for me. No kidding!

If there is a prediction for rain two days out, I can usually tell by the ache in my joints. If there is a cold front coming in, my headache and muscle pain will lead the way. If there is a full moon, watch out, I turn into the wolf man… or should I say wolf lady. Every evil symptom I’ve ever experienced comes out of the woodwork, ready to wreak havoc on my life. Like creepy crawlies coming out of a grave, they hover in the dark corners of my life. Ready and waiting to pounce the minute the weather turns.

Changes in the barometric pressure cause joint pain to intensify. It can cause migraines to appear out of nowhere. Putting an added strain on weakened cardiovascular systems, increasing the chances of a heart attack or stroke it wreaks havoc left and right. With the changing of the seasons allergies come out to play. For those of us who experience chronic pain and illness, changes in the weather can make life a misery.

Whatever the coming season brings, I am bracing myself for it. I’m just thankful that autumn comes before winter. It gives me a little more time to prepare. A little more time to live before I go into the hermit mode that I associate with winter’s chill and damp. Let me just say, “Welcome autumn, please make yourself comfy and stay awhile.”

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Stock image by Image Source Pink

Originally published: October 25, 2016
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