Dumb Things People Say

It’s truly impossible to catalog all the dumb things people have said to me about my rheumatoid arthritis and resulting disabilities. For the most part, these comments are the misfires of well-intentioned people. I won’t even mention the purposefully mean comments.

But there are plenty of dumb things people have said.

Ignorant comments about my RA

  • Have you ever tried this [random cure]? I know they mean well but strange supplements and treatments have not and will not cure my RA. I’m all for alternative treatments and continue to use some. However, wacky diets, vitamins, magnets, rituals, prayers and more have never worked to alleviate my RA. During 36 years of living with rheumatoid arthritis I have tried or studied most treatments available. I want these well-meaning folks to know I have not left a rational stone unturned. Really, my doctors and I know what we’re doing under the current understanding of science and research.
  • Isn’t arthritis for old people?Nope! RA is an autoimmune disease that affects people of all ages and is not like osteoarthritis or the wear and tear to joints that occurs with aging. This comment is growing less frequent with all the awareness from copious RA medication ads on television. More people seem to know the difference between RA and OA. Still, not a lot of people know RA can be diagnosed in children and young adults. I hope to eventually be an older person living with RA, but I’m not there yet and have a few years to go.
  • Do you work? A lot of people with RA cannot work due to their illness. But I really don’t like the assumption that because I have severe RA and use a wheelchair that I automatically cannot work. Just because I live with disabilities, doesn’t mean I cannot work. I enjoy my work and find it helps to keep me active. Secondly, I need a job to afford health care and live the way I wish. Working is not a luxury, but a necessity that I am also fortunate to enjoy. I feel for the many people with RA who are unable to work, but I also think we shouldn’t make assumptions about who does and does not work.
  • You are my hero/inspiration. This comment from fellow RA sufferers means a lot to me, although I feel unworthy of it. However, from other people it rubs me the wrong way. I know it is meant as a compliment, but instead it feels like condescension. I’m a person, not a statue or symbol. Believe me, I’m plenty flawed and imperfect. Just like everyone else, I’m trying to live the best life I can. My goal is not to be a hero or inspiration, but to be the best person I can, with or without RA.
  • Here, let me help. I’m not against help. In fact, I need and ask for help all the time. I just don’t like it when people force help on me. One time I was sitting in my motorized wheelchair in the airport waiting area waiting for my plane to be called for boarding when I felt this shoving from behind me. I turned around and saw a woman in airport uniform trying to push my braked, 250 pound wheelchair without my consent. Let’s just say I didn’t react well. And in my response I explained that you cannot just start pushing a person’s wheelchair because it is incredibly rude and in the case of someone with a motorized chair like mine, futile because it’s not moving while braked and not under my control. Unless you’re Hulk Hogan, good luck. Bottom line, I’ll be sure to ask for help when I need it. If I’m not asking, then don’t start pushing.

These are a few of my tales of unsolicited comments/actions. What dumb things have people said to you lately and how have you handled it?

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