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Preparing for Winter When the Cold Weather Worsens My Depression and Chronic Pain

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I am entering my third winter since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and second with osteoarthritis. Since the start of my son in kindergarten I am on my second cold this fall which reminds me of the harsh grasp winter had on me last year. The coldest winter in Vancouver during my 31 years existing on the planet and living here, the worst winter for my health. Brr. It was beautiful though. Reports say we are supposed to be getting another harsh winter which has my arthritis and depression wishing I could run away to a tropical beach. Reality though will be Raincouver or maybe again Snowcouver, and me searching for the perfect footwear for the season to best fit my arthritic feet. I expect it to be very wet and I’ll be feeling it.

It was my first winter and my first time on a biologic drug, which, when you have an autoimmune disease, means it lowers your immune system since yours is overactive in some way. So, I have a weakened immune system. I also started weekly injections of methotrexate again which is a low dose form of chemotherapy and venlafaxine to treat my anxiety and depression which I didn’t find much relief from. Then I caught a nasty cold; the colors of mucus that came out of me were the gnarliest colors of mucus I have ever seen, reminding me of toxic yellow or green waste you saw in Class of Nuke ‘Em High. I felt about as awesome as you would expect. I’m convinced that the gym, sauna, rest, healthy diet, tons of water, vitamins and oil of oregano pills were what got me out of that mess.

I was sick for months, sick enough I couldn’t really have my kid and when I get like that I enter a state of depression I can’t stand to be in. I miss my kiddo! I was in a very bad spot, as many people get at that time of the year, but this was the worst I had been in yet. Seasonal depression is a bitch, but I wondered if it affects those with arthritis even more, so I asked my psychiatrist who specializes in patients with arthritis and they confirmed my suspicion. Arthritis really can be worse in the winter and he’s prepping for his busy season. Oh boy, here we go. The weather is already cold and damp and I can feel that seasonal depression creeping in and my joints ache. These frequent colds have me laid up a lot of the time lately. I am not only reminding others to take better care of themselves but myself too. And I need a kick in the butt.

One of the scariest side effects of various pharmaceutical drugs is the increase they can have on depression, which can lead to some pretty scary suicidal thoughts and emotional outbursts or disturbances. Exhausting. It was terrifying, not trusting the drugs to treat my illness. I was scared and confused. I was constantly dizzy, my thoughts were racing and wouldn’t turn off. At the end of the winter was when I ended up with my first panic attack. Last winter I also had incredible stress over my illness and personal life. Wasn’t good times.

My immunosuppressants caused a lot of side effects in me but with these drugs you have to try them out for awhile to see if those side effects go away or if the benefits of the drug outweigh it. I am sensitive, and some of my reactions may not happen to the average arthritis patient. Currently I am on some different medications which are giving me minimal side effects. My rheumatoid arthritis, however, still isn’t happy unfortunately. I’ve shown improvement but not what I would call enough. It can take years to find the right drugs, and I am still in that battle. It truly sucks. It’s almost like waiting to get some portion of a normal life back and watching the world carry on without you for years.

With my son in kindergarten, it is up to me five days of the week to see he gets to school at 9 a.m. and picked up at 3 p.m. I don’t have the opportunity to get really sick and let him stay with the grandparents when I fall ill. I need to try and stay as healthy as I possibly can to be there for my son. I can’t let arthritis get in the way again this winter.

The purpose of this post and this story however is to remind myself and those reading this to not let themselves get into the pit of depression winter tends to set people into. Remember to take care of yourselves, go to the gym and be active if you’re able, eat healthy, take vitamins and keep up with treatments. If you are struggling, there is no shame in asking for help or talking to someone.

Follow this journey on Chronic Eileen

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Thinkstock photo via Hemera Technologies.

Originally published: October 31, 2017
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