Using Poetry for Pain Management with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Last updated: August 2020
I’m chronically okay
I’m busy but you can’t see it. I’m fine but I don’t feel it. I’m chronically sick but I don’t look it.
Poetry as creative expression
Poetry can be a great way to manage the often overwhelming feelings that come along with rheumatoid arthritis. With rheumatoid arthritis, we are much more likely to have increased levels of anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem. Using poetry as a form of expression, even when you’ve never considered yourself a “poet,” can help you express these feelings in a creative way, thereby giving a voice to what is going on inside you.
Am I a poet?
Heck no! Nor do I in any way feel the actual need to publish to pursue publication of any of my works. However, after I metaphorically “throw up” all my thoughts onto a sheet of paper, boy do I feel better. Words and feelings often swim around in my head, over and over again until I finally decide to sit down and do something with it. (Even if the sitting part is plenty painful). But just because I don’t consider myself a “poet” doesn’t mean that I can’t use this medium to manage the physical and emotional pain of life with rheumatoid disease.
Using poetry for pain management with rheumatoid arthritis
What are the rules?
That’s the super-cool part of using poetry as one form of life management, there are no rules! Who cares what your middle school teacher preached about poetry a hundred years ago. Write about the pain or the frustration you are feeling. Pour our words filled with expletives or even praise. It doesn’t matter because it is for no one else but you. As you can tell from the poem above, I love repetition. I don’t know, there is something about it that speaks to me. But it doesn’t matter, you will learn what works for you.
Find the poetry in the pain
Yes, using poetry as a form of emotional and physical pain management is not for everyone. You may have taken one look at the title of this article and scrolled right on by, and that is okay. But if you are still with me, wondering if it might be something for you, then you will never know unless you sit down and give it a try. Grab some paper or a journal and just write down the words that pop into your mind. If your hands (like mine) just hurt more when you hold a pen, try typing or even have a trusted friend write the words for you.
Poetry as distraction from rheumatoid arthritis pain
It also works great as a distraction technique. If your mind is searching for the “right” word, then it isn’t focusing on the throbbing pain and fatigue. Using the distraction technique works wonders for me and while it isn’t perfect, nothing I’ve found so far is. I’ve learned to be okay with that.
But when it comes down to trying something, anything, to help manage my rheumatoid arthritis pain- even if it is poetry- I’ll try it. I suggest you give it a try too. Who knows, you might just be a poet and you didn’t know it! (insert your own GIANT eye roll here!)
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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