Monday, September 16, 2013

What It Feels Like…To Have Lupus and RA In The City

For some people, moving to New York City is the pinnacle, a true Cinderella story.  Not for me.  For me it has brought up a lot of issues that I didn’t really have to think about before.

In Michigan, I had a 10-block radius in which the majority of my life took place in.  Of course, I went beyond that, but it basically assured that even on bad days, I could get where I needed to go and get home, even if I was feeling pretty bad.

That’s not the case here.

I also have never had to deal with a commute before, let alone one that takes me so far away from home.

Some day I can tell my future children that I had to take a bus, subway, and train – over an hour commute – and then walk 25 minutes uphill to get to school.   

And let’s talk about anxiety.  When I first got sick and was diagnosed, my world felt totally crazy, so I began taking anxiety medication.  New York, by design, makes my anxiety worse.  It’s sensory overload times a thousand.

The subway is its own particular brand of anxiety-inducing.  Imagine what it feels like to be surrounded by darkness, in a metal contraption that is moving at high speed.  For me, I feel totally claustrophobic.  Not to mention the fact that the train tends to rock back and forth in such a way that you feel like you are on water rather than land.  Due to lupus, I have balance issues, which aren’t conducive when you have to stand up on a crowded subway.  Lupus also causes me to be very sensitive to smell – so I will smell something – and it will literally stop me in my tracks and make me nauseous.  Not a good thing when you are riding the subway in ninety degree weather. (I’ll let your imagination do the rest)   

And it’s just like who ever came up with the idea to stick giant tubes with wings in the sky?  It gets people where they need to go, to be sure, but it doesn’t have to make people feel good while it’s happening.

And the city is totally unforgiving.  It’s crowded and fast-paced.  If you can’t keep up, you don’t stand a chance.

When I get home at night, I get into the elevator, and I almost always collapse against the back wall.  I am exhausted to the max.  While other people might have energy saved up, my energy stores are beyond empty, and sometimes I wonder how I will be able to get up and function the next day.

In a city characterized by walking and public transportation, it doesn’t leave much room for those of us with health issues.  We are at the mercy of what is available to us.  The subways are full of stairs, and if you take them two at a time, you’re likely to be left in the dust.

I feel like I’m back in my first year of grad school in Michigan, when all I did was go to class, sleep, eat, and read.  That’s pretty much all I have energy for at the moment.   

And in the concrete jungle, my joints take a beating.  But right now it’s the mind-melting fatigue that I’m really trying to manage.

In general, for me, RA means mainly joint pain and fatigue.  Lupus brings with it nausea, dizziness, headaches, and rashes.  I sometimes wake up feeling like I’m hungover, like I’ve been hit by a truck, and flattened against the wall. 

Right now, we are living with my boyfriend’s dad until we find our own place, which means we have the luxury of a doorman and an elevator.  But my boyfriend tells me that every amenity adds to monthly rent, and that having an elevator can add up to $500 more to your rent a month.  I lived on the top floor of a three-floor walk-up in Michigan, and there were days where I would practically have to crawl up the stairs at the end of the day. 

I wasn’t made for this always-on-the-run, push-your-body-to-the-max lifestyle.  It isn’t me, and it’s not conducive to trying to manage multiple chronic illnesses.

In the city that never sleeps, all I want to do is crawl into bed.


  1. wow, sounds really overwhelming, Leslie. Hope you settle in soon and find a reasonable place with an elevator!

  2. Hey Leslie, I am going to be heading westward this spring, and should be settling very close to San Francisco. This post was incredibly insightful, and even though I may not have an autoimmune disease, it takes time to adjust to living life in a big city. I hope that things have begun to look up for you in the big city.

  3. Hi Leslie,

    After that trip to NYC, I was wondering how it would be to live there, especially if you have mobility issues.

    The city may never sleep; it seems like it translates to its citizens, as well.

    We only took the subway once and was dismayed to see so many stairs - going up is one thing, but down, down, down is quite another.

    No wonder you're exhausted - so many changes, much of which is beyond your control.

    I hope that you've made some headway and are feeling more comfortable.


  4. This post was incredibly insightful, and even though I may not have an autoimmune disease, it takes time to adjust to living life in a big city .thanks for sharing this nice information.