alt=a man looks nervously as a superhero cape in a closet behind him

Using RA as an Excuse - A Superpower or a Curse?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Most people attribute it to Spider-man, but it actually came from Peter Parker’s uncle. I think about that statement a lot, not just because I’m a huge sci-fi, comic-con, Star Wars fan, but because I have a superpower. It's one that almost drove me mad with power before I learned to use it responsibly, and that power is called rheumatoid arthritis excuses. Err, we’re still working on the name.

RA felt isolating as a child

When I was first diagnosed at age 11, I thought having a chronic illness was a curse. It prevented me from doing so many things and separated me from my classmates by a seemingly insurmountable gulf of non-sports participation and school day absences. I mean, it’s not like I was great at sports to begin with, I had 2 left feet and no arms. But still, I would have liked to not be picked last when it was a decision between me and having one less player on their team. I always lost that bet, which means I was basically worth less than nothing. But I digress. The point is, I always saw my rheumatoid arthritis as a drawback, an anchor weighing me down and I just wanted it gone. That is, until senior year in high school – the year of the origin story for my superhero powers.

Every Tuesday, I had to leave school early

I missed 56 days of school senior year. Yes, 56, but I still graduated. How did I do that, you might ask? Well, it’s because I discovered my superpower and started to use it furiously. It all started when I was put on a new medication at the beginning of the school year, which required weekly blood tests. Because of this, I had to leave school early every Tuesday to make it to the lab before they closed, and in order to be excused, I would bring a note from my parents. After a month or two, it became rote – Tuesday morning, I’d hand in the note, and Tuesday afternoon I’d leave early.

Learning to use RA to my advantage

It was going swimmingly until the Tuesday when lightning struck and I had my awakening. I went to hand in my note when I suddenly realized I had forgotten to obtain said correspondence. I frantically searched the bottom of my book bag and even scoured my entire locker which was no picnic. Unfortunately, besides the Maltese Falcon and a new strain of penicillin, the locker was empty, so I decided to head to the office and turn myself in to see what could be done.

I mawkishly stepped into the principal’s office and was about to tell my sad story when it happened – the secretary looked at me and just said, “is it Tuesday already? Ok, you’re all set.” And then she marked me down as leaving early without me needing to hand in a note. Head, meet explosion. At that moment I realized the new superpower bestowed upon me. Rheumatoid arthritis excuse man was christened, and a new superhero was born.

I took it a little too far

For the rest of senior year, any time I wanted to leave school, I strolled into the principal’s office and said, “blood tests.” With a wave of her hand, the head secretary blessed my impending absence like the pope blessing a devout congregant. It got to the point where I could give a hand signal from afar, and I was excused for the rest of whatever day it was. Of course, as an 18-year-old with such an unchecked superpower, I only used it in safe and responsible ways. Ha ha, that’s completely false. I was actually mad with power. Drunk on my ability to leave school whenever I wanted without consequence, and I used it capriciously. That’s how I ended up missing 56 days of senior year and still graduated.

As you can imagine, the superpower use didn’t stop after high school. I used RA-related excuses so many times in college to get extensions and miss class that sometimes people wouldn’t even recognize me when I showed up for the midterm. It was amazing and it only made it worse that most people had absolutely no idea what rheumatoid arthritis, or chronic illness in general, was about. I could invent side effects and surgical procedures that were obviously baloney. Still, because there was a one percent chance it might be true, combined with a general ignorance about RA, it meant my shenanigans worked pretty much every time.

Eventually, others caught on

Of course, as always happens, I eventually pushed it too far and had to attend a special meeting to ensure I didn’t get “asked to leave.” I had flown too high, and the sun melted my wings, but luckily I landed on a small island before I drowned in the sea and realized that my power was too strong to be used in such an irresponsible fashion. That doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t still there.

Use your powers wisely!

Using my RA as an excuse if I don’t want to go to a get-together, or do my work that day, even if it’s just excusing it to myself, is a powerful thing and has to be utilized sensibly. Sure, you can throw it out there when you don’t want to go to that one-man-show about Mark Zuckerberg that your friend is performing at 9pm on a Tuesday night called “Farcebook,” but it makes it that much easier to tell yourself you “just don’t feel well enough” to write that article the day after. Or the day after that, and then suddenly, it’s the weekend.

As you can see, using your illness as an excuse can get out of hand before you realize it, so use it wisely! Talk soon.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

Have you taken our Rheumatoid Arthritis In America survey?