I quickly wake up.
The room is dark.
The atmosphere is silent.
It’s happening again, getting breath becomes a convulsive effort at best.
I lie there in bed, suddenly realizing that I’m gasping for a decent amount of air to fill my lungs, but it won’t come.
Morning confusion and pain, the more I struggle, the harder it is to get a good breath.
The more awake I become, the more I struggle, but there is only so much I can do to expand a ribcage that does not want to expand.
The short night’s sleep was enough to undo the progress I made the day before to loosen up the bones that make up my chest. All it takes is a few hours of stillness, if I can call tossing and turning most of the night, stillness. A few hours of sleep is enough for my ribs to tighten up again.
The pressure of the early morning air seems to crush in on me, and I fight for a breath. Muscle spasms quickly hit me and that adds to the confused and unnatural efforts it takes to capture unsteady, small amounts of air.
Even the unevenness of the wrinkled sheets pressing against my ribs cause excruciating pain for which I can find no relief. I toss and turn slowly from side to side finding that the wrinkled sheets have created little…how to describe…like little speed bumps all over the bed, and those push up into my body triggering more muscle spasms and crushing my chest.
Just a breath, just want no pain. “I just want to wake up and feel good in the morning,” my brain screams!
“If lying down is horrible, then sitting up must be better,” I say to myself.
I begin the sitting up process: I push myself into a sitting position, and then I swing my legs off the bed and I sit there in pain. I feel the spasms hit me in regular fits as I attempt to breath normally again.
It feels like the ‘Devil Hand Grip’ squeezing my chest. Perhaps, this is the ultimate wrestling hold of all time, I don’t know. What I do know is that this crushing hold happens with all too often a frequency.
After several minutes of sitting at the edge of the bed, there is no relief, it is the same…standing must be better. It is too bad that I can’t sleep while moving around, while walking.
Standing is better.
The ribs are still clamped down on my lungs, but they are easing slightly and loosening up the more I move, the more I breath.
The spasms subside as the minutes tick away: An hour goes by and breathing is considerably easier.
Breathing. A full and refreshing breath. Something so natural, so necessary, so unnoticed most of the time. However, when episodes like this happen, the lack of good breathing becomes very noticeable to the “Spondy” (a term for a person with Ankylosing Spondylitis), especially in the early hours of the morning.
What sets it off? I don’t know: It’s just the disease. That’s what happens. I should be used to it by now, after 26 years of mornings similar to this one today. But why should anyone ever get used to pain? I don’t have the answer to that one either, but I know that as a Spondy, it will come and that is all there is to it. I’m not bitching about it: I’m just sharing a few thoughts about what it is like for me with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Maybe there are others with AS who can identify with these types of mornings. If you can, then you are not alone. I only wish I had some answers for you to help make the “experience” easier.
One thing I can tell you is that there are, what I call, trigger foods: Trigger Foods are those that seem to cause inflammation in the body. At least, the list of foods that follow are some of the ones that make me feel very horrible the next morning, because they seem to consistently cause more stiffness and pain for me:
- yellow dhal (lentils)
- tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce (ketchup is OK, however – not sure why, but happy about this!).
- …and there are more, but these are my worst.
The problem is: I love eating all of these things! Damn the Arthritis! Anyway, these foods, or any type of food that has a lot of these products in them (i.e., pizza, and many of the South Indian foods that I like to eat), seem to cause me extra pain. All I can say is: “Eat at your own risk!”
I’ve had my share of good, bad and ugly mornings. This one was particularly UGLY! Maybe that is why this blog entry is finally surfacing.
Maybe it’s just the wrinkled sheets.