I have been answering a lot of questions about different treatments for rheumatoid arthritis,
natural ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis but how is it really to live with rheumatoid arthritis, are there anything difficulties or things I am unable to do due to my illness and how can you support someone living with rheumatoid arthritis – is there anything you can do?
Life With Rheumatoid Arthritis – Growing up
Growing up I never really understood what Rheumatoid Arthritis was or how it would affect me. It was not until my teenage years that I started noticing symptoms other than swollen fingers and pain, I still did not put the two together. When I started receiving treatment – cortisone injections – is when I started experiencing more inflammation and more pain. There was days when I could not go to school because I could barely walk, there was days when my mother had to wash my hair because I was unable to do this myself because the pain was too intense. I was only 16 years old.
I compare it to a balloon. Imagine having a balloon and you are blowing it up, you can feel that it is getting full but you continue to blow in air, it is really getting hard to blow air into it and you can feel that if you blow anymore air in it will pop but you still continue. This is basically the feeling, at least for me, your joints are not very big and when the inflammations start, your joints fill up with liquid, it keeps filling up even tho there is no room. It is extremely painful.
There were times when I could not hold a glass of water with just one hand. I needed two. I had to get a bunch of different aids to be able to be independent. Not fun to have to live through in any age, definitely not fun to have to live through as a teenager. I would see my peers playing basketball or other sports, knowing that I could not due to the pain. I would try to fail miserably, the pain of holding the ball was too intense.
I stopped going to gym class. Something that should have been fun, now was only torture.
My teachers argued with me about this. They could not or would not understand the struggle I sometimes had just walking.
I focused on sports that I was able to do, I was riding and doing Pilates at home.
If you would like to read more about exercise for Rheumatoid Arthritis then click here.
Can You Work With Rheumatoid Arthritis
– Yes you can work with Rheumatoid Arthritis but you might not be able to do everything. I wanted to join the army but due to my R.A. I would not have been able to this was very disappointing for me. I wanted to join the police force, same thing as the army, I was not able to due to my R.A. I felt like the world was against me and that there was no point. I then started doing pretty much everything that the doctors told me not to do. High impact sports, drinking, smoking. I did not care.
One day I started caring again. I am unsure why but I did. Perhaps I was just sick of allowing my illness to have so much control over me.
I have worked with a lot of different things and most of them have caused pain. I have worked in cafés, as a caregiver, in administration and as a caregiver, I have been working as a door to door salesman and a cleaner, a ton of things. All work has involved doing something with my hands and to be honest it is very hard to avoid. I have been lucky enough to have found work that has had an understanding for my condition to a certain degree. Either way if you have R.A. adding more “stress” to your joints might be something you want to avoid but finding something that will not affect your hands might be tricky.
At the end of the day I would suggest trying to find something that will make you happy and where you can take breaks.
Something that is simple to everyone else might be something that you struggle with.
It can be as simple as driving a car. I have always driven a manual car but due to my R.A. I found myself in pain with both my hands and feet when I had to shift gears. I now drive an automatic car.
Finding something that you can do without putting unnecessary strain on your joints is something I recommend.
You might never use it but perhaps there will be a day when you must.
How To Give Support To Someone Who Has Rheumatoid Arthritis
One thing that I have noticed is because people do not understand how Rheumatoid arthritis affects you it is hard for them to know what to do. Because they have never gone through it they might not think that what you are asking is of relevance, they might think that they are helping or supporting when, to you, it feels like added on pressure.
Because Rheumatoid Arthritis is not a visible “disability” I have noticed that a lot of people do not understand the things you might ask to do or not to do.
The gym teachers did not understand why it was hard for me to go to that class and the more they pushed me and I failed the less I wanted to go. How you treat and understand can be of great significance to someones self-esteem. It took a big toll on me and my self-esteem, the more I failed at doing things that all the other children could do and the things the teachers told me I should be able to do.
When I have studied today, I now have the option of added on time as R.A. can make it hard to use a computer from time to time, it is then my choice if I want to use this or not.
By listening to your friend or family member you can make a big difference in their life. Pushing them can sometimes make it harder for them, especially if they have a flare-up. During this time the smallest thing can feel like a huge task. Even having a shower can be of great effort. I have had people in my life who would push me to do things when I was in pain, this ended up with me being in more pain and being exhausted afterwards. Accept that the situation is as it is right now but in a few days it will probably be completely different.
Always ask if there is anything you can do. Most of the time there probably won’t be anything you can do but offering your support shows that you care and it will make a difference to the person in need. During a flare-up the person might not be able to do the things they usually do, try to understand, I know that it might not be fair but you might have to add on some extra things to your schedule to assist the person. Something so little as going grocery shopping can change the outcome of the whole day. Preparing a bath can help with the pain and is such a small thing to do to show some support.
Most importantly, ask, ask if there is anything that you can help with. Keep an active communication.
I am lucky to have had family and friends that most of the time understand. Sometimes they do try to push me to go out with them etc. I know that they do not intend this in a bad way but it can add on pressure of being well, which I have accepted, I am not all of the time.
I am a strong believer that you can do anything you set your mind to, except joining the military or the police force, at least not for me. As long as you believe in yourself and you are able to allow things to take time then you can do anything. It might take you a little bit of time to build yourself up to do certain things on a daily basis but you can get there.
I love writing but in the beginning, it would hurt like you could not imagine, but by doing a little bit a day you can get to a point where you will not hurt and it will be easier. It might take time but it will be worth it.
When you live with someone who has R.A. they will probably, most of the time, think if what you are about to do will cause pain. The pain is what will hold you back. The swelling and the inflammation you live with but the pain is the struggle. We try to avoid it at all cost because it can be extreme. Try to keep this in mind, that we most likely will choose an activity or a way of life that will give us as little pain as possible, this does not mean you cannot do anything. Use your imagination. R.A. has given me an incredible lust for life and for always pushing my limits.
I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments then please drop them down below and I will get back to you.