I’ve always had a relatively even-keeled disposition. I’m rarely emotional, as the term goes. I don’t often cry, scream, yell, praise or even laugh.

Apparently, I wasn’t like that as a child. My dad says I was quite passionate. I always smiled and giggled. I was social and happy. That being said, I rarely showed “negative” emotions like pain, sadness or anger.

Compartmentalizing emotions

When I mother passed away I became more a-emotional (yes, that is not a word but describes what I mean perfectly). I compartmentalized and tucked away emotions in a little box in the back of a cupboard.

I always thought this was a good thing because I remained levelheaded. I made objective decisions, ones that were never fueled by overt feelings. However, this practice came at a price. I didn’t deal with my emotions and even though they were hidden from my conscious, they festered and burst through at an exaggerated level.

The one emotion I especially drove into the mud was stress which was especially prevalent in my teenage years. I went to school in a highly competitive environment so it’s no wonder I was a little high strung. Unfortunately, with stress, it negatively affects both mental and physical wellbeing. I often wonder if I had dealt with stress better I may never had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. That’s a question for another day…

Type-A personality and rheumatoid arthritis

I was used to a fast-paced environment, went to school with dreams of being a veterinarian. I was an A-type personality. After my diagnosis, I continued on as though nothing changed. I still worked in a fast-paced field, took on two more jobs because I had time in the afternoon and weekends and continued to push myself physically; all the while wondering why my symptoms never went away, why I never responded to medications and why my doctor called my disease highly stubborn.

It was when I finally couldn’t take the veterinary technician job any longer and was placed on a two-week medical leave that my rheumatologist sat me down and said, “You need to make a change. You’re running yourself too hard and accumulating too much stress. If you want to control your RA you can’t do what you’re doing now”.

Emotional impact of rheumatoid arthritis

It was then I realized I needed to learn how to feel.

It took me a few years, no lie. I was so used to pushing emotions into the abysses of my mind that I felt overwhelmed when I felt them. But, I soon found out that after I dealt with my emotions I felt great. I dealt, I conquered and I moved forward. I felt lighter, more at ease, different. Almost immediately, my RA symptoms decreased in intensity and I finally felt like I could manage my life with RA.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell anyone ‘it’s okay to feel the way you do’. It’s best to let out the emotion; to acknowledge it, feel it and let it go. It can’t simmer in the background waiting to catch and flame. Emotions have no control over our minds which in turn affect our bodies. We can focus solely on managing our illnesses.

All that being said, I’m still not a passionate person. It’s just not my personality but I am now acutely aware of how emotions how deeply felt, or not, can affect my RA and honestly, I’d rather feel something hard for a few minutes than feel the weight of it for days, weeks and months.

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