For the last month I have been very quiet, mostly because I found myself getting to a point where I was losing hope. Depression was starting to sink in. I believe almost everyone who suffers moderate to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis will suffer some depression at some point. For me, it happens when I lose hope.
Admittedly, it’s been a rough few weeks.
I had to drop my dose of Arava, because my liver function tests came back bad. Then I developed an incredibly itchy rash on my arms. Cause unknown.
Adverse reaction to Arava? Allergic reaction to something else entirely? Lupus symptom?
Whatever the cause of the rash, because of my prednisone use, my skin is very thin and breaks easily. Everywhere I scratched (even though I tried hard not to!) I would bleed. Also because of the prednisone, I heal very slowly. After a few days my arms and legs were covered in itchy, bloody sores. My general practitioner advised me to start tapering down off prednisone, so my skin could heal. So I started a fairly quick taper…1mg every 3 days.
By the time I got to 11mg the joint pain was enough to make walking difficult. The fatigue came back with a vengeance, forcing me to rest more, and achieve far, far less.
And the unbearable itch just capped everything off.
Next my skin started developing nasty, infected looking pustules, which turned into open sores, like boils. The steroid cream wasn’t helping. I got to see rheumy for another one of the ‘emergency’ appointments I love so much.
She suspected a staph infection. And told me to up my prednisone back to 15mg right away. And so ended another painful prednisolone taper! She also apologised, there had been a mistake with my Enbrel application, and it had only been sent in the week before. She told me it would be another two weeks until we had an answer. I had already been waiting five weeks…I almost cried then and there.
Pain, fatigue, unbearable itch…and human error…all conspired to reef my positive attitude right out from under me and sent me limping to my couch, with my heated throw and my teddy bear!
I lost hope.
Staph was confirmed by a skin scrape test. I started antibiotics.
The best part of all was that even if Enbrel were approved, I couldn’t take it. You cannot take a biological with an active infection. And I still didn’t know IF Enbrel would be approved. My rheumy just didn’t sound confident to me.
I lost hope.
I knew what I needed to do to pick myself up again. But truthfully, I was just so tired, I didn’t have the energy to do it. And I didn’t think I had anyone in my life who would help me.
Feeling utterly and totally alone didn’t improve my mood. So I took a chance and called a friend. And she listened. She gave support. She understood some. She didn’t change the subject to her problems. She didn’t hang up the phone. I’m grateful. I felt a little better.
And then Rheumy called to tell me that Enbrel has been approved. The script is in the mail. At the end of this course of antibiotics, I can start treatment.
I was stunned. Hope came flooding back. I could instantly feel the black cloud start to lift. I hadn’t even realised that the main cause of my depression was not knowing whether Enbrel would be approved. That phone call changed everything. I started to laugh. And then I cried.
And then I danced around the room, knowing that there’s a very good chance that once Enbrel has a chance to take effect, I could be dancing with much less pain.
I have hope.