20 March 2013

Part-Time? Intermittent? Interruptive?

I'm looking for a new word, because "chronic" doesn't fit my own embodiment of dis-ease.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "chronic" thus: "Of diseases, etc.: Lasting a long time, long-continued, lingering, inveterate; opposed to acute."  Also: "continuous, constant."  The term fits the pain and stiffness in my shoulder, lingering from last year's incident when a runaway truck collided with my car.  The pain isn't particularly severe, and it's sometimes worse than other times, but it's always there, and fairly predictable: If I use the arm, the pain will be worse.  If I carry a backpack, or lift weights, or go swimming, it will aggravate it.  At the end of the day, when I try to get to sleep, I notice it.  It's always there.

The asthma, on the other hand, comes and goes, in intense and unexpected shifts and reversals.

Oh, the disease is always there, and I take medication twice a day to keep it under control, and there are things that will pretty predictably set off a reaction: inhaling smoke, eating mushrooms, drinking wine are all guaranteed troublemakers; getting a cold or flu sometimes sets off worse symptoms, but sometimes doesn't.

I decide what I eat and drink, though reading ingredient labels is a constant hassle and trying to eat in restaurants can be vexing.  Inadvertently breathing smoke from a fireplace, a cigarette, a can of sterno, a gas heater, or an idling truck is a lot more difficult to control.

Sometimes, one of these triggers -- or a combination -- will set off a mild reaction from which I recover in a few hours.  Other times, an attack might be so severe I'll find myself winded from loading the dishwasher or taking a shower; climbing stairs becomes a project.  It might take a week to recover, or six weeks, or three months.  That, too, is unpredictable.

The Oxford Thesaurus: American Edition suggests, among others, irregular, discontinuous, sporadic, spasmodic, random, fitful, and broken as synonyms for "intermittent."  What I want is a word that means both "random" and "spasmodic."  I also want some sense of the body being attacked rather than attacking itself: the triggers are environmental even though the bodily response is auto-immune.

What think you, sisters and brothers in the land of disorders that buck and hassle and kick on some days, and subside in meek docility in others?  How do we name our embodiment?