Eleven stitches, add a space, then 11 more stitches. Repeat until you reach the end of row two. The next row changes slightly so that the tiny gaps create a diamond pattern.
The repetitive nature of crocheting calms me. I’m a worrier, and I wish I could crochet during every stressful moment, whether before a big test or in the long hours waiting for things to get better. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.
Sometimes, I have to put down my yarn and hook and face the things that cause me distress. While I do well fighting my own battles, the worry leading up to them does a number on my health. I always come out triumphant but battered.
Everyone copes with at least a little stress. Lately, everyone has had more than their fair share. For kids, teens, and young adults with juvenile arthritis, anxiety may be doing more than affecting their mental health. Some may be in physical pain.
Stress is incredibly painful, even in the physical sense. When I go through something difficult, I feel like Atlas holding up the world. I feel the tension in my shoulders. The worst is the pressure on the disks in my spine that are irritated and thinning.
The pain is real — it is not all in my head. I can’t emphasize enough that our reactions are often biological. Stress causes the body to produce more inflammation, which can be incredibly painful for someone with juvenile arthritis, who already is dealing with an abundance of inflammation. A body with JA experiences extra inflammation as a stabbing, an ache, a throb, or any number of other pains.
Of course, stress also can cause physical strain. It comes from the way we tense and clench, which is bad for stiff joints. Nighttime grinding can irritate the jaw and neck. And lack of sleep and dehydration can hurt the body and cause it to ache. Not to mention the way the body can be tempted to stay busy and not rest until you’re burnt out.
Reducing stress is almost always the first tip given to people with chronic pain and autoimmune diseases. Sometimes, juvenile arthritis gets left out of it, maybe because people assume kids shouldn’t be stressed much. But that’s not true — even little kids experience anxiety. While this is a difficult time for children and teens who are missing their teachers and classmates, I think it’s essential for JA parents to be aware of the toll stress may be taking on your child.
Doing what we can
Parents, your child may be hurting right now. Yes, it’s a painful time for all of us emotionally, mentally, and socially. But your child may be struggling in all those ways in addition to physically. They may need a little extra kindness.
Being kind to them means they have places to retreat to when they need to be alone for a little while and rest, being able to talk openly about feelings without being told “don’t worry,” and acknowledging fear and pain. Small acts of love go far for a child whose JA is flaring from stress. Whether it’s taking a short walk around the block to get some one-on-one time, drawing them an Epsom salt bath, or even watching a favorite movie together, it all helps. Encouraging them to work on favorite hobbies can also be a great outlet.
I think talking to a therapist can be beneficial for kids with JA. They go through so many challenges and may need a safe place to release their feelings. And importantly, a therapist can help them learn to express their feelings and cope with the things that are bothering them. Baths and massages can only do so much, but learning to cope may help more. I’ve been told an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Learning to relax
In another 60 or so rows, I’ll finish a diamond-patterned baby blanket. It’s one of many I’ve made lately as so many family members and friends welcome little ones this spring. Crocheting isn’t a distraction from my struggles, it’s my outlet to process my thoughts and feelings.
When I first sit down to start a project, I feel so tense. But as I work my magic, I begin to soften. The repetitive, slow nature allows me time to process things calmly. Making gifts helps me remember what’s most important. Yes, right now is a hard, lonely time. But I can’t help but soften at the thought of a new little cousin to love for a lifetime.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.
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