Woman angrily dismissing another person looking dejected and frustrated (with their back to the viewer.)

"You Would Feel So Much Better if You Just ______."

“You would feel so much better if you just: exercised, lost weight, put on makeup every day, showered every day, did yoga, went out more, quit thinking and talking about being ill, had a positive attitude, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada”!!!!!

I’m sure each of you has heard all these and more. This past week, I got earfuls of this from one of my friends. One of my friends actually said to me, “I don’t want to listen to this, it’s depressing.” Seriously?? I was stunned! I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t listen because it made herdepressed. Was I wrong to expect my friend to listen? I’ve listened to her every time she asked.

When friends don't understand life with RA

I believe our friends try to “fix” us so that we can be their “fun” friends again. Sometimes, I just want someone to listen, not to fix. I want someone to acknowledge that this life of mine is rough. I don’t want you to compare yourself to me. I don’t want to hear that you “understand” my pain, because you don’t. Your osteoarthritis is nothing like my rheumatoid arthritis. I know this because I have both. I am not negating the pain of osteoarthritis as it is painful. However, it does not invade my entire life like an autoimmune disease does.

Listening is important in friendships

I do not discuss my limitations often, because I don't want to be a burden. But there are times when it is necessary, and I truly want someone to listen. I just want you to share in my grief. Yes, my grief. We have all lost the dream of what our life would be. In moving forward with the grief of our limitations, we must choose to adapt. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always accepting of my body. Sometimes, I'm tired of adapting to a "new normal."

The unique ways that my life has changed

My life is nothing like I imagined. And yet in many ways, it is more than I dreamed. I never would have found my current job if I hadn’t had limitations. As an RN, it’s gratifying to know I can still make a difference and earn an income as a parish nurse. It is the best job I have had in my 33 years of experience. I also would have never found this community. This community has sustained and encouraged me, and given me the opportunity to write.

The importance of being understood

So how do we respond to these well-meaning friends? What do we do when our friends want to fix us and cannot understand that our bodies refuse? As I learned when my husband died by suicide, no one understands the journey you travel unless they have traveled it as well.

I spend a lot of time on RheumatoidArthritis.net because here I have people who understand me. I don’t feel alone when I am on this site. I also spend time with friends who will listen.

What do you do? I would love to hear great ideas from people who understand.

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