February is a strange month. It’s short in duration, even as the days steadily grow longer. Every four years it grants us an extra day as it attempts to catch up with the yearly revolutions of the earth around the sun. It’s caught in a blurry time-warp, lost in the fog between the merriment of the holiday season and the imminent arrival of spring. Until the groundhog emerges and declares his customary prediction, winter still rules the land – weeks before the onset of spring, our northern world is cloaked in cloud and hazy mists mask the mountain peaks, keeping us shrouded from the revitalizing rays of the sun.
Managing fatigue is already a difficult battle with arthritis – in the fleeting gloomy days of winter, it can be tough to shake the pall of fatigue under the discomfort of heavy swollen joints. Sunlight is regularly absent in our northern winter, making me irritable and weary. There’s something enchanting about the sunlight. The same pain rating under dark skies, is vastly improved when the sun shines. It’s a warm spark that triggers the sleeping serotonin levels in my body, elevating my dark mood and increasing my energy. It resets my internal body clock, helping to drive away the fatigue of RA. Regular doses of sunlight maintain the Vitamin D levels naturally formed in our body – important for everyone, but especially for people with RA, helping to boost our immune system, improve muscle function, and maintain the health of skin, bones and hair.
It has not been a harsh winter for us, in fact, it’s been balmy compared to previous years, but it has been gloomy and wet. I’ve had a lot more trouble with my RA this winter, with increased flaring draining the fragile scraps of my usual vitality. I have made myself go outside, even on the gloomy days, to walk off the cloud of fatigue and energize my body. Every once in a while, I catch a spot of brightness behind the cloud cover and feel the promising breath of spring at my back.
The earth is slowly showing signs of awakening beneath the surge of tropical moisture swooping up from the Pacific and joining with our usual storm systems. There are tiny flowers and foliage poking through the soil. I am aware that there could be one last blast of winter at this early date, but this morning I heard the haunting song of the black-capped chickadee, letting me know that change is in the air – and as I wrap of this post, rays of sunlight have poked through a thin layer of cloud, illuminating the mist with tiny rainbows, reminding me that my sunny days are budding on the horizon.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.