“Let’s climb up over here,” I told my hiking partner, my feet digging into the mud of the riverbank. “This looks like the easiest—aah!” I fell through a heap of brush and sticks that I’d mistakenly trusted for my next step. I caught myself between a log and the dirt, banging up my knee and back on the way down and scraping my arm on the twigs.
“Are you okay?” my friend yelled from the bottom.
“Yeah. I’ll just be a little sore tomorrow,” I reassured my friend as I pulled myself up and continued the ascent.
That day, I’d decided to take a friend on a hiking trip. I’d been through the area many times and had always admired the sandy river beach below the trail, but I’d never ventured down to it. I figured that bringing a friend along would make the feat a little safer.
In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea—we had to trudge through a creek straddled by spider webs to get down to the river and then hack our way through brush so thick that we wouldn’t have noticed a mountain lion if it had been a couple feet in front of us. It was only a ten-foot drop down to the river, but the bank I attempted to climb was nearly vertical.
I eventually gave up on the climb, and my friend and I found a better way back to the trail farther downstream, but the next day I was in for a surprise: my knee was hugely swollen. I must have hit it harder than I’d realized.
As I stared down at the inflammation around my knee afterwards, suddenly, it occurred to me: why wasn’t I flaring?
Just two months ago, almost anything that taxed my immune system at all would make me flare. I once fell on the sidewalk on the way to class one morning, scraping my leg, and that night, I started ticking like crazy, having highly disturbing intrusive thoughts, and falling into depression so badly I couldn’t leave my room to get dinner in my kitchen.
Another time, I got a small second-degree burn and flared so much that my mom had to come stay with me. On yet another occasion, I strained my groin on a run and later spent half an hour screaming, not from the physical pain, but because my OCD was suddenly horrendous. And of course, I always flared when I had the slightest hint of a cold.
Logically, with my knee as swollen as it was, I should’ve flared. But I didn’t. In fact, I haven’t flared since the beginning of June. This time, the only thing I noticed was the injury itself.
While I’m not exactly happy about banging up my knee, I’m relieved that it showed I’m heading for a time when I won’t have to be afraid of flaring at the slightest scrape or sniffle. In a strange way, I consider being able to get slightly hurt and only worry about packing on ice for a couple of days a privilege; there was a time when it would’ve meant losing myself for a few days until a Prednisone burst kicked in.
Aside from the fact that I didn’t flare, it’s amazing in itself that I’ve gotten to a point where I can call up a friend and invite him on a hiking trip. Not too long ago, I had days where my social anxiety kept me from even speaking to my roommate. On top of this, being able to walk a few miles on a hike without my legs collapsing underneath me, as they once did dozens of times per day, is remarkable.
My knee is fine now, but I don’t think I’ll be climbing down to the river again any time soon. And you know what? I also dare to believe I might not be falling off my mental cliff into a flare for a while, either…