Seriously? No That Does Not Describe RA!
Even after all these years, I am still shocked (yes shocked) by the vast number of outlandish ideas people have about Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I thought, just by my own personal corrections done with most of the folks I encounter regularly, that the myths and misconceptions that surround RA would be, not only reduced, but maybe even not so “out there”. Well, I have been proven wrong, at least when it comes to the ideas that surround what RA is, how to deal with it and how it impacts our lives.
I encountered someone not long ago, who suggested a series of very odd diet changes that would totally eliminate flares! These included eliminating all forms of beans and other suggestions that were so odd, I simply did not know what to say. I just said that I have tried diet adjustments over the years. Reducing some foods that tend to influence inflammation, for instance, have proven mildly successful. I made a conscious decision not to go down the rabbit hole on this one. I did not even want to validate it by asking how or where they came up with this idea.
What do we do when we hear these misconceptions?
So, then, when we come across these misconceptions, what do we do, if anything? I really base my reaction on a case by case judgement. Factors may include how much time I have, how much energy I have, my assessment on whether I think the person can really assimilate what I tell them, etc.
When deciding what to tell them I also consider the audience. By that I mean how much detail and how sophisticated should the information be that I am going to share. And, how interested are they, really. Is this just someone being politely tolerant of the correction of their misconception or do they sincerely want to know the reality? Frankly, it is not always obvious, so I tread carefully. I simply do not want to waste my time speaking to someone, investing in them learning about RA, only to feel that they did not understand, grasp or even care about what I had to say. I think we have all encountered those situations.
A few months ago, I had someone suggest that they knew what RA was, going on at some length about how their spouse had terrible joint pain in their knee for years and were now, finally, going to get the knee replaced. I asked if the person had been diagnosed with RA versus OA, and they said they thought so. I then attempted to explain (briefly I might add) the difference between the two to which they said it made no difference since they both were arthritic conditions so who cared which one it was? Well this was one of those instances when I decided to let it go, knowing full well, the mind had been made up and my words would have no impact.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I was asked by a friend of my son’s, what RA was? He seemed genuinely interested and so I explained it to him. It was so encouraging to have someone listen attentively, ask good questions, and conclude by thanking me for the explanation! How I wish there were more of these instances in our lives!
I actually practiced what to say.
I do think we have to be prepared for all possibilities and kind of be ready to respond. I actually practiced, early in my journey with RA, what to say. I wanted to keep it simple and clear, giving just enough information to educate but not so much that eyes glazed over. That took some time to perfect, but I think I have it down now, 22 years in.
Misconceptions are always going to be part of what we encounter but how we handle them is up to each one of us. The decision is yours.