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Finding the beauty in bruises

Finding the Beauty in Bruises

Most definitions of rheumatoid arthritis explain that RA is a chronic disease characterized by joint inflammation, pain, stiffness, and swelling. All of these things have certainly been true of my experience with RA. But the complete impact of RA on my life has been so much more than that. Whether it’s the emotional impact of living with a chronic condition, or the need to reduce my social commitments, or the limitations RA places on me as a mother, RA affects my life in a thousand little ways that I never realized when I read that definition for the first time.

For example, the other day I got out of the shower and was shocked to see myself in the full-length mirror. My body is currently completely covered in bruises. There’s a bruise on my right forearm the size of my hand. There’s one in the middle of my left palm that is almost invisible except for how much it hurts. And my legs. Oh my goodness my legs. My legs have so many bruises that I basically look like a Dalmatian.

Although not a direct symptom, these bruises are definately a result of my RA.  I have always bruised fairly easily and these days there is almost always a two-year-old crawling all over my lap or clinging to my legs. As part of my current RA treatment plan I have been taking a daily dose of prednisone for about five months now, and my doctor confirmed that the prednisone is the likely cause of this new level of crazy bruising

So the other day as I stood there, looking at my bruised self in the mirror, my first reaction was to be completely disgusted. I tried to count all the bruises that I could see and there were at least 39 on my legs alone. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I look like a Dalmatian!) The challenges of losing baby weight with RA and the moon face from the prednisone have already taken a toll on my self-esteem. Seeing all those bruises certainly did not help me feel any better about myself.

Because I find it helps me cope to always try to stay optimistic and keep looking forward, I tried to think of something potentially positive that I could learn from the situation. At first the only thing I could come up with was this: at least it’s wintertime and I am wearing long pants and long sleeves so no one will have to see all these disgusting bruises. At least it’s not swimsuit season.

But, after a little more thought, I started to ask myself why I was so glad no one would see the bruises. What, exactly, do I have to be ashamed of? It’s the invisible aspect of life with RA that often frustrates me the most. So what if, instead of hiding under long sleeves, I put on my swimsuit anyways and wear these bruises like a badge of honor? Because these bruises, while certainly not pretty, are very visual representation of the battle I am fighting for my health every single day.

So that’s what I did. Because I am strong enough to keep going no matter what happens – and there is certainly beauty in that.

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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.

Comments

  • JBeauD
    11 months ago

    I stumbled across this post today when googling RA and bruising, and by the time I finished reading and got to the pictures I cried. It was like looking at my self in a mirror. Thank you for your bravery and grace. When you have RA you sometimes lose track of all the ways it can alter your body. I’m so relieved to know I’m not the only “Dalmatian” out there.

  • Blessedcollies
    1 year ago

    Thank you Mariah for writing this. I have a lot of bruises also. I don’t even know how I get them. I do seem to hit walls as I walk by, lol! When they take blood or an infusion, its 3 weeks of bruises! You hang in there!

  • r9bbcr
    1 year ago

    Wow! I just had to save this article. It hit home wide open. Thanks for sharing it. It made me feel not alone in the sutruggling battle.

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    1 year ago

    @r9bbcr, I’m so happy to hear this article hit home with you. You definitely aren’t alone here. Thanks for being part of our community! – Alesandra (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Olfalatumas
    2 years ago

    Love this Mariah… not that you are bruised, of course, but that you can have fun with it. I, too, find weird bruises everywhere from minor bumps and even Yoga positions. We have to keep our sense of humor. You are braver than I donning the suit and posting… my old man body would frighten every one. 🙂 Thanks for the smile today and keep on truckin…

  • Nina Winterbottom moderator
    2 years ago

    Olfalatatumas, if donning a suit and posting would make you feel empowered, go right ahead! And thank YOU for bringing your sense of humor to everyone here. I thought you might be interested in Mariah’s interview with the program director of Yoga For Arthritis: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/yoga-for-arthritis/. Let us know if any of it sounds familiar.
    All the best!
    Nina (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Pat
    4 years ago

    I’ve found that Arnica salve or gel really helps with the bruises. A bruise that would last for a couple of weeks normally disappears in a couple of days.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Pat! Good to know! I’ll have to look into it next time I’m looking more like a Dalmatian than a human! ~;o)

    ~Mariah~

  • Loreen Hackett
    4 years ago

    Mariah, isn’t it amazing what we just get ‘used to’ while going through RA. I’m glad to hear you are accepting the bruising in as positive a way as possible and I feel ‘ya – not only do I have RA and take prednisone, I also have a blood disease causing low platelets, so I am nothing short of one large, walking black and blue, and no longer think anything of them. Just this weekend I woke up with 2 black eyes for no reason, and at least got to make up a funny story on explanation (way easier than telling the complicated truth), further maintaining my sense of humor through it all! Stay proud girl.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Loreen~
    It can be super difficult to manage multiple conditions, but I think you are right that humor can be key! Hang in there!
    ~Mariah~

  • Meg Koelzer
    5 years ago

    Mariah, I’m new to this site and I love your posts! I’m currently in college with RA and one of the biggest struggles with finding a “going-out” outfit has always been trying to cover those bruises. Between bruising easily and those bruises not going away, I feel like I’m always “spotted” (not to mention the bruises on my thighs from weekly injections). Ugh! I like the idea of wearing the bruises as a badge of honor. Plus, you never know who else out there may be struggling with the same thing and gain confidence from your confidence. Thanks!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    5 years ago

    That’s a great point – invisible illnesses are invisible, so even if you have one yourself you never know who else might have one! And everyone is struggling with something. Hang in there, Meg! Dealing with this stuff at a young age isn’t easy and we are here to support you!

  • Darla
    5 years ago

    Bravo ! I salute your attitude and your courage to post bathing suit pics. You
    look terrific by the way. I too have had so many “spots” especially on my
    Arms & hands I hide them as best I can. Now I think I will put on my lovely
    rings & bracelets and smile. Thank you!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    5 years ago

    Hi Darla! Thanks! I hope that you will enjoy your rings and bracelets! We should! We have nothing to be ashamed of – the battles we are fighting every day are something we should be proud of when we can. ~;o) Hang in there!

  • Merry
    5 years ago

    Thank you for bringing up the topic of RA bruises. I used to get bruises for just sleeping at night. I’ve traded the prednisone and it’s side effects for injectable Methotrexate. Less bruises but other side effects. Your humor and courage are wonderful and encouraging as we all deal with this disease. To me, some days are just more challenging that others!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks, Merry! I do agree that some days are a lot more challenging than others – so I always try to laugh and be optimistic when I can! Hope you are doing well!

  • Jane Burbach
    5 years ago

    Bruises? Yep. You look great! My bruises are embarrassing at times.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks, Jane. I can certainly agree that bruises can feel embarrassing. I’ve had a lot of comments recently about the huge one on my forearm! But I’m trying to stay positive about them and I hope you can too!

  • Jeanmarie
    5 years ago

    First off, what baby weight?! You look amazing! Secondly, way to go putting on the swimsuit! My new year’s resolution is to love myself more… Moon face, extra pounds, bruises and all. I haven’t been doing so hot but this article helps and is so encouraging! Thank you!

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    5 years ago

    Jeanmarie ~ Thanks. ~;o) I’m trying to love myself more too! Because, despite its issues, my body keeps going and it brought my two amazing little boys into the world and I think that makes it pretty amazing. I also try to remind myself that the way I deal with my own body image is the example I am setting for my kids. I want them to know that women can be beautiful in all different shapes and sizes – not just what they see in the media. (I’m working on an article about that topic too!)

  • Kelly Mack moderator
    5 years ago

    Mariah, good to know that I’m not alone in finding mysterious bruises! Sometimes I find them and am totally puzzled at how I got them! One way of looking at it as that our bodies are art and the bruises are the colorful brush strokes. 🙂 Thanks for turning an annoying aspect of RA into something we can laugh off. Best, Kelly

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    5 years ago

    Kelly ~ Aside from the occasional bruise that I know came from an Enbrel injection, I never have any idea where most of the bruises came from either! It’s crazy! ~;o)

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