The other night, I hurt my hand mildly before improv practice and arrived late. I told my team about it as I took off my mitten. They screamed when they saw my hand. “Yeah,” I thought in satisfaction, “I have a legitimate injury.”
I took off my other mitten and they screamed again. Both my hands were bright red and purple. “I have bad circulation,” I muttered. I guess I don’t get glory points for an injury after all.
Raynaud’s prevents proper blood circulation in fingers and toes, and I pretend I don’t have it. My mother has it, and her fingers can turn pure white in the winter. Mine has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. My toes can turn white if I don’t protect them properly, but I mostly see the effects in my hands. When they get cold, they turn a dark purple, almost dead-looking, which heals to a swollen red that lasts for weeks. If my hands get intensely cold, even for a minute, I get chilblains, an affliction of Victorian orphans. My knuckles or fingertips turn bright red and swell to twice their size, and get itchy when they’re hot and painful when they’re cold. (It’s a cool party trick to hold up pinkie so swollen that it looks like the other one belongs to a baby. Except when the people at the party actually care about you they get worried.)
Out of 25 people who work at Natureworks, FOUR have Raynaud’s. That is more than I’ve ever met in my life. One works in the office, and one was smart enough to become a houseplant expert, but a landscape crew leader and I work outside a lot. I genuinely do not know how Lisa, the landscaper, survives out there. But I will share with you the things that have worked for me.
As you can possibly tell, I am writing to also remind myself to do these things, since they are easy to forget. Once summer rolls around, this will not be a problem and I can be outside like a normal person—but still wearing gardening gloves. Everyone should wear gloves when gardening. There’s an infinite number of things your could accidentally touch out there, and some of them you don’t want on your skin.
Raynaud’s is no joke (talking to myself again, here). It can lead to arthritis in joints that are constantly too cold. Stay safe out there!