Changing Perspectives of RA
Last updated: January 2023
When someone thinks of a person with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they don't think of me — for a variety of reasons. I'm young (a majority of patients with RA start noticing symptoms between 30 and 50 years of age) and I'm male (those who identify as female make up 75% of patients diagnosed with RA).1
To drive the point home, someone who identifies as male in the United States has only a 1.7% chance of developing RA.2
This is not something that was supposed to happen to me, and yet it did. What do I make of this? How can I make sense of this?
I used to think I deserved to have this disease
I used to think that I had done something to invite this diagnosis into my life (likely the product of a very religious upbringing, for sure, but also because of the immense pressure I place on myself to just exist/live).
I used to think that there was also something wrong with me and that I somehow deserved to have this disease. Obviously, I've recognized the dangerousness of that thinking and how erroneous it is, but I also simultaneously recognize the power that thinking had over me. It was horrible. I didn't want to think that way, and it took a lot of time to realize it's not true at all.
Humans and their experiences are complex
The problem, then, is transitioning to a framework that allows both mindsets to occur simultaneously. At the same time that I recognized how dangerous this thinking was (that I had done something to be diagnosed with RA), I also recognized that this immediate thinking is part of mindset/identity, so some aspect of me was holding onto this part of my thinking.
This then begged the question: what would a new framework and mindset look like? At the same time that I didn't want to have RA, I recognized that's not a reality that could be possible. So, this new mindset/framework had to incorporate both of these questions/thinkings, even if it sounds paradoxical — but humans and their experiences are complex.
Shifting the power away from RA and toward me
But now, I'm thinking that there could be a new perspective on RA that goes beyond the framework where I situated RA in my life.
I don't want to say that RA is just part of my life, nor that it IS my life; it just is. It exists, I've been diagnosed with it, and that's that. Yes, there's lots of problems and consequences that come with that, but in reality, I see this perspective as shifting the power away from RA and instead turning it toward me. To have the power to say, "This just exists and it's here," is, well, empowering.
Changing my perspective
I’m hoping that this explication of the change in perspective I’m experiencing can help others who are going through similar experiences with RA to know that their feelings are valid, and that it’s okay to change frameworks/mindsets; in fact, it can be liberating.
The best part is that it’s inherently flexible and based on your unique experience.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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