Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Invisibility vs. visibility of RA

Fighting with the Mirror

Sometimes I get angry with the mirror. I feel it doesn’t reflect how I am feeling—specifically, how I am feeling on a bad RA day.

There’s the saying: “It is always better to look good than to feel good.” (Thank you to Fernando Lamas as played by Billy Crystal for bringing that aphorism to life!) But in reality, I don’t really believe it. I suppose that I should be grateful to frequently look better than I feel, but sometimes I wish my face revealed a truer portrayal of how I am feeling.

Perhaps part of the problem is the mask I put on. The cheery smile and the eyes that mistakenly convey I got a solid night’s sleep. I know I do put on a positive front because I don’t want other people to be worried when I am not doing well.

Days when RA shows on your face

But there are days when I’m having a painful RA flare, or haven’t slept, or have terrible side effects (like a migraine or stomach ache) that I want it to show on my face. I want my eyes to say: “Kelly feels terrible today so leave her alone or give her a pass.” I want my skin to be as pale and fragile as my joints feel. I want my hair to be standing up on end in emphasis of those terribly aching joints. I want some of the drama of the disease to show up in my appearance so that I don’t have to explain—I will just be understood.

When RA is visible

People see my wheelchair and observe my joint deformities. What they see often affects their perceptions of me and how they treat me. A lot of time, this is bad.

The good thing is when people get to know me and become accustomed to how my RA and disabilities look. They may forget or never realize that I have an active chronic disease, that I have many days when I feel terrible because of this illness.

While on the one hand, it’s great to experience acceptance. On the other hand, I want the people in my life to understand that I may be smiling on a day when I feel absolutely the worst. My joints may be aching, fatigue may be pulling me down, or some other weird RA symptom or side effect may be making my life hell. I may be looking good, but feeling less than stellar.

When I look into the mirror, some days I am thankful for the smokescreen that my face places over my RA symptoms. Other days, I wish it would tell the real truth. I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied and think I may just always be fighting with the mirror day after day.

Maybe the important lesson is that I need to share how I’m doing when I am comfortable doing so. I don’t want to place any burdens on others, but if they know my face keeps secrets than maybe they can support me better on my bad days. I don’t always have to play the superhero, though it may be nice to wear that winning smile.

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


  • Pipper
    1 year ago

    I love how you put to words exactly how i have felt and i am feeling. Thank you for that it really hit home. This is my first time on here and i needed to read that. Again thank you.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Pipper. So happy this article could help. I keep on fighting that mirror. 🙂 Hope you are hanging in there. Best, Kelly

  • Charley43
    1 year ago

    Look good, feel good! Even if you don’t feel like it

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    That’s a good mantra Charley43–thanks! 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • misspat
    1 year ago

    Dear Kelly

    Try to feel as good as you look. If you still look beautiful, do what you have to do to FEEL beautiful. Use that stiffness to strike a pose. Wear colors that uplift yourself. Have a cool lemonade with a pretty umbrella in it and a beautiful sprig of mint – have someone paint your toenails a pretty color!

    We will be in the winter of our lives soon enough – don’t rush it. Live in the moment with your BEST LIFE.

    Don’t give up on yourself and give in to the RA – wear shades if your scleritis kicks up.

    Thank you helping me – I hope I can help lift you today.

    Much love


  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you Misspat! Your words are truly an uplifting inspiration. 🙂 I’m going to take some of your excellent advice! Best, Kelly

  • rockcandi
    1 year ago

    There are times when I’ve gotten tired of wearing the mask and just plain out say how I feel. Once that was met by a comment by my husband that shows he really doesn’t know how much and often I’m concealing the way I truly feel. He said “You don’t even have to tell me, I can tell if you’re in pain.” If? It’s never if. I’m always in pain. I’d have thought he’d know that. But that’s my fault. I know that I don’t allow it to show most of the time. It’s for his and others benefit, true, but it’s also for my own. If I went around always allowing my pain, exhaustion, weakness, etc to show on my face, I’d feel just as miserable emotionally as I do physically. I do allow it to show at times and it’s usually when I’m already feeling badly emotionally too, emotionally hurt, worn down, and weak. So keep that beautiful, bright smile on your face Kelly, but when you need others to know how you’re feeling, allow yourself to tell them.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks you Rockcandi! I’m glad that I’m not the only one with these feelings and really appreciate your kind words. 🙂 Keep on smiling and know that you have support here! Best, Kelly

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 year ago

    Kelly, the wonderful thing is when I get to be who I am. That means, happy when I am, angry when I am and the entire other list of emotions.

    In other words, it is best to be human. I hope you also feel that way and get to express yourself as such.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks Rick! Very good reminder that we are all human and need to be how we are–good days and bad. Today, I am smiling because of your nice note. 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Poll