Tuesday, May 14, 2013

But It’s Only Arthritis

Something truly terrifying happened to me yesterday. 

I fell in the shower.

Now for a “normal,” healthy person, this might not seem like such a big deal.  You fall, you get back up, no harm, no fowl. 

But for me, because I have rheumatoid arthritis, it is a big deal.

Since I was diagnosed with RA, I have had this pathological fear of breaking my hip, specifically, slipping in the shower and breaking my hip.

My right hip is one body part that is significantly affected by my RA. 

And everything I hear about older people breaking their hips is that it is not an easy injury to come back from.    

Thankfully, I landed on my elbows – my second most impacted body part affected by RA – and not my hip.

But let me tell you, even though I didn’t get hurt “hurt”, getting up wasn’t an easy thing to do.  Thanks, no less, to RA. 

And now I’m afraid of the shower. 

In reality, I stepped too far back and hit the rounded part of the tub.  (Makes me think a stall shower might be a good idea in my next apartment…)  There was no stopping it.  The fall was inevitable.  Although, thankfully, the injury, wasn’t.  I got really lucky.

Again, this might not have had such a big impact on me if I had slipped in the shower and didn’t have RA. 

I think when most people think of arthritis, they think of someone having arthritis in one joint that they take Tylenol for, and that’s it.

Most people don’t realize that, in the case of RA, it is systemic.  It can affect every joint system in the body.

So for those of us who have arthritis, it isn’t only arthritis.

For those parts of my body that are affected, I fear that an injury could exacerbate it and that I could potentially lose function and mobility.  Hence why injuring my already damaged hip would be devastating.  For those parts that are less or not at all affected, I fear that an injury could cause arthritis to begin or get worse.  This has already happened to me with my ankle after a freak injury I had last summer, so this prospect is very real and very scary.

RA has an impact on everything I do (including taking a shower).

What I experienced yesterday was one of my worst fears.  Maybe it sounds lame, but it is what it is.  I saw the fall happening in slow motion and there was nothing I could do but let it happen, or risk really getting hurt.  It was like grasping for straws. 

So while my pride – even though I was alone and no one other than me saw it happen – is injured, thankfully my body really isn’t. 

Of course, I will shower again…eventually… 

But I hope that this can be a lesson to those without arthritis, that it isn’t a “but it’s only” type of thing.  Arthritis can have drastic and long-lasting effects.  It impacts what you do and how you do it, what you think about and how you think, what you fear, and what drives you forward toward the future.


  1. "Only" is one of those words that shouldn't be allowed. I think I would have that same fear of the shower in your position. Do you think getting a shower stool might help you feel more safe?

    Gentle hugs to you my dear.

  2. isn't it funny - peculiar, not ha-ha - how even when we have RA, we shrug it off at times? And then something happens to make you realize that you're not quite as invincible as you think...

    I've come to accept such moments as learning experiences. A warning to take precautions and pay attention in the future. In this case, I'd suggest those adhesive rubber thingies in the bottom of the tub for safer footing. Perhaps a shower bench or chair so you can sit and shower (much harder to fall if you're sitting!).

    Take good care of yourself. We need you in one piece.

  3. I feel your pain! Thanks for sharing! About 4 months ago I too took a fall, at a gas station. It was not a graceful fall, or a painless fall, it was a cursing butt to cement fall. My everything hurt & X-rays are still going on. I fear the gas station the same way you fear the shower. I go there because I have to, but it's always with trepidation. Hope your fears ease soon...I'm here for you!

  4. I'm so sorry! That is so frightening! I've been there myself. It’s also not very fun when your hands/fingers are all swollen and you can't even open the shampoo bottle. I've experienced that and it's so annoying makes you want to scream. I hope you concur your shower fear soon. You can do it lady!

  5. Well put. I'm the same way with my chronic dizziness and stairs. I've fallen up them, I've fallen down them. And it's always been that slow-motion effect of which you spoke. People without these chronic afflictions cannot comprehend our trepidation concerning these "normal" activities. I loved your summary in the last paragraph of how these chronic illnesses are all-encompassing. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  6. This happened to me when I slipped getting out of the bath tub. I took a terrible stumble and got a HUGE bruise on my leg. On top of it, we have concrete floors and a tall bath tub. I was terrified that if I fell I would crash down on the hard floor and really hurt myself. It scared me so much that I was afraid to get in and out of the bath tub by myself. I do it now but I am much more careful and I sit on the edge of the tub rather than stand up to get in and out. That way I can't slip and fall again.

    I hope you feel comfortable again to take a shower. You might want to look into putting in the shower handles that suction on the tile. My friend has them and they really hold on tight. She got them from either Bed Bath and Beyond or a store with supplies for people with disabilities.

    Good luck!

  7. Thanks for all the love on this post!

  8. Thanks for sharing the post Leslie. A broken hip can certainly take a while to recover from. My grandmother broke her hip about two years back. Her balance is not very good anymore, and my mom (also named Leslie by the way...) now gets very worried about her walking without a cane. I am glad to hear that you were able to avoid your hip in the fall, but I am sorry that your elbows had to deal with the blow.