On Shaky Grounds These Days

Throughout my 25 years with RA, I have had periods of time where I feel a personal “earthquake” of sorts.  Characterized by a sense of emotional and mental unsteadiness, it brings with its anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, sleeplessness, and, at its worst, a new and painful flare.

The added stress of risks and extra precautions

The “earthquake” has returned in recent weeks and I am trying to sort out why. I suspect the recent pandemic with all of its ramifications, etc., is partly, maybe even largely, responsible. Knowing we are in a class of folks who are significantly at risk enhances the sense of vulnerability that we have dealt with for years.

We now have added a whole new set of precautions and restrictions to our lives and it has created this personal shaky ground that I am now trying to cope with. I keep trying to tell myself that all of these precautions serve us well, which I have no doubt they do. But it has bubbled up to the surface the realization of being so vulnerable and that has re-ignited the “earthquake”.

Emotional & mental effects of the RA experience

But I also think that this simply happens to me from time to time and is part of the RA experience. I have also observed that sometimes, just when I think everything is going along smoothly with regard to my RA, worry and concern pops in to give me a sense of uncertainty. The confusing thing is, I consider myself a positive and upbeat person who, more often than not, seeks out and finds the best options and problem solves with a good success rate. That makes this all the more unsettling.

The burden of how to best deal with chronic illness

I wonder if it is simply part of the journey we navigate when managing RA. On the one hand, we want to live “normal” lives and so we shove upsetting thoughts to the side in order to keep moving day-to-day with some sense of normalcy. But always in the back of our minds, is the reality of a chronic disease and how to best deal with it medically, emotionally, socially, etc. That is a very heavy burden

More research needed on the emotional effects of RA

There has been so much studied about the physical management of RA. Not so much, when it comes to the emotional effects of RA. Most of what we know and suggest in that area comes from patients themselves. I am very thankful for that but even when I try to discuss this with my doctors, their suggestions seem routine. Most of them are helpful and include meditation, exercise, staying connected with family and friends, etc, and I could not agree more. 

Is there a way to be proactive about this?

That said, I do wish that more specific studies were done on how to address this when it comes to the day to day navigating of chronic illnesses like RA. I wonder if there are ways to “see it coming” and proactively respond so that the “earthquake” can be avoided along with the physical flares that we know are impacted by stress.

I hope, that given the amazing research being conducted, looking into the emotional and mental side effects will be given some solid and long-term consideration.  We need any and all tools to manage all the aspects of RA.


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