Excerpt from “Casing My Joints: A Private and Public Story of Arthritis”

By Mary Lowenthal Felstiner 

Heat Inversion (excerpt)

Long before morning I wake with a stinging in my shoulders so acute I lie in bed for hours thinking how to drain the acid off; or I get up in the dark-tired, baffled, stiff, and slow. All morning I keep dropping off and waking in a bum. What if I worked on an assembly line where falling asleep I’d get maimed?

It’s noon and I’m waiting for the ague to go away. Inside the joint there’s high influenza – it must be 102 degrees. Anywhere I sit stays hot after I get up. If I reach for a magazine, it slips off my thumbs. If I take a shower, I can’t squeeze the tube of shampoo. I try reading but the sense of words simmers away.

And then my heat inversion lifts. By late afternoon I lose sight of how it was. I see friends. They say I look good. Just before sleep, I wave away what will come a few hours later.

A joint disease like mine gives daily meaning to the wicked words “double life.”

{Source: Feminist Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, Women and Health (Summer, 2000), pp. 273-285}