Friday, November 13, 2009

Black and Blue

Our college homecoming queen married the quarterback. No surprise there. They got married when they were still fairly young, right upon graduation. My then boyfriend and I attended the wedding with most of our friends. It seemed like a great match. They found jobs at the same high school. She was to teach English, he to teach PE and coach football. We sent them off with birdseed and our best wishes for their future.

Several years later, I found out that this couple divorced. The story I was told regarding their break-up was one of those that was so unbelievable, it was almost humorous. The rumor was that she left him because each time his football team lost a game, he would go home and beat her. Obviously, it is not funny if he truly did hit his wife. It is just simply ridiculous that someone would be so affected by a football game as to let a loss turn his Dr. Jekyll into his Mr. Hyde.

Now it is several years since I heard this story, and it is I that feel like the battered wife. My abusive husband is known by the name of Mr. Rheumatoid Arthritis. We call him RA for short.

He’s an ass, and he doesn’t just strike when his football team loses.

In fact, give RA a beautiful sunny day, and he’ll make sure I’m stuck inside out of spite. He keeps me locked up from friends. On certain days, he hovers so closely that I cannot even type to my online friends. And he has even gone so far as to rob my voice so in order to make telephone conversation impossible. He prevents me from so many activities I used to enjoy. He has even put an end to my dream of having another child. He is selfish, and he is controlling. There is little doubt about that.

He has changed the way people view me. Instead of being held in awe for my looks or for my brains, he has allowed that people pity me instead. Instead of being perceived as the mother with boundless energy, I am instead regarded as the woman being terrorized by an evil being that I am not strong enough to shake. I fear that I appear weak to others.

RA ensures that no one else will want to find me sexy ever again. The toxic drugs that have accompanied his presence in my life have caused much of my hair to fall out. After RA had been with me a number of years, he managed to destroy my appetite until I am naught but skin and bones. And just in case these attempts fail to make me ugly enough, he tries desperately to disfigure me.

But by far the worst part about living under the reign of my brutal companion is the tremendous amount of pain he inflicts. RA is extremely violent. He causes joints to swell like to twice their normal size. When he gets through with me, I’m in pain from jaw down to my ankles. I take more pain medicine then I ever imagined I would, and most days that doesn’t even come close to touching the amount of pain I’ve suffered at his cruel hands.

So if I am to think about it, is it really any wonder we all struggle with depression and resentment. Those of us with RA are all suffering from battered woman syndrome. Yet, there is no hotline we can call. There is no one who will come in the middle of the night to take us away and protect us from this beast. We don’t even have a description to give the police of the gruesome thing that tortures us. That bastard we live with every day won’t even show his face! We are being held captive by a beast we cannot escape, and he finds new ways to torture us with each passing day.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t band together and fight this thing. Each time RA rears his invisible hand, we will smack him back down with every tool in our arsenal. We will continue to form groups and share the treatments that have worked to bring him to his knees. For every powerful entity you show me, I’ll show you his kryptonite. Cancer has chemo, polio was banished with a vaccine and even the HIV virus possesses only a shadow of the power with which he once presided.

I actually ran into the ex-homecoming queen a few months ago. She is remarried, still teaching, and has two beautiful kids. Her ex is nowhere near the old school, and I’m sure he crawled back under whatever rock from where he originated. I would love to say that all evidence of her past abuse is completely erased; however, I couldn’t help but note this woman had lost the sparkle that once existed in her eyes. She did not hold herself nearly as straight and proud as she once did. She did not speak with the confidence I remember used to radiate from her. She has been forever changed, and her battle scars are evident.

I refuse to lose my sparkle. I refuse to let RA take away my confidence any longer. There are parts of my life RA cannot and will NEVER touch, this blog, for one thing. Each time I write, I am recovering a piece of what he has taken from me. Even my symptoms seem to be improved this past week. So let me make this announcement here and now – RA may have laid claim to my body, but he can never…ever…have my soul.


  1. This post got me all teary-eyed. The minute you brought us the abusive husband, I knew where you were going. RA is personal. I try everyday to be a mother, a wife, an employee, a student, and just a human being, and there are days where RA gets the best of me. My diagnosis was the biggest eye opener for me, it taught not to sweat ths small stuff and not take anything for granted. I have days where I feel sorry for myself, I feel my kids or for my husband, but the in end, I have been so much. I took the upside of everything. I am grateful that I was diagnosed in the 21st century and not 50 years old. I am grateful that for my children, for my strength and for my resilence. I am not saying that RA has not taken anything from me - it has. But you get up and you do it everyday.

  2. Incredible analogy and incredible writing, SB. You nailed it. I've always "seen" RA as a beast, a dragon that burns and bites, that I can't vanquish but I can beat back now and then.

    Thank you for sharing your imagination, your frustration, your anger and your courage with us. You're an inspiration.

  3. All I can say is, "Amen, sistah!" :)

    Like most battered women, I used to think I deserved my suffering. That I was the one at fault. Then I woke up. I was 5 when I was dx'ed. What could I possibly have done to piss God off so much that he'd sentence me to a lifetime of pain? Nope, I'm just unlucky, the only one of ten grandchildren (1 sister, 8 cousins) who was so "blessed."

    Still, I've been incredibly lucky. I found a man who loved me for me and had two healthy children with me. And he's sticking with me through an average of one surgery per year since 1997, when I had my first hip replacement.

    My current drug cocktail is doing well for me, but the future is still cloudy. Yet it doesn't do any good to worry about it, it's beyond my control.

    Great blog! Stay strong!

  4. Are you familiar with the Spoon Theory?

  5. Great post - RA certainly hasn't taken any sparkle out of your writing!