It

We All Have that Friend…

…The one who tells the whole gruesome story of how they twisted their thumb or sigh dramatically when they trip on the pavement and “twist” their ankle. And all the while, expressing vehemently how they knew it was going to happen and how they could have stopped it. Then, after the initial shock of injury, we are constantly reminded of the “longest recovery for this specific injury because it was just so bad!”

Cue eye rolling.

Honestly, I think this friend is just too funny. Everything is hugely dramatic and makes for a great story. I know these injuries are not extremely serious. And, I sort of care; the first three times. I mean, it is hard to feel sorry for someone with a splinter when I “accidentally” staple the pad of my thumb. (I wanted to know whether there were fewer nerves in the pad on the palm than on the actual finger. Don’t judge me, we didn’t have Google back then!)

It is hard to feel sorry for someone who had “debilitating” injuries all the time. I’m sure some of them are really painful but just like everything else, hearing about them day in and day out lessens their severity.

Who hurts more?

When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, this friend started a competition with me. A competition of who hurt more and how often.

Now, I’ve never been one to harp on about pain but every so often I do have to make my disabilities known. Then, out of nowhere, this friend ups the ante. Her knees hurt so much she can’t get up five steps to my flight of stairs or she is just so tired she takes TWO naps during the day or she spends the weekend icing her affected body parts.

Once I talked about how difficult the first few weeks of physical therapy because I had to go back to basics (ie. Balance work) and she said she couldn’t even do balance work because she was in such bad shape.

How would she react if she had a chronic illness (sorry, chronic complaining is not an illness). I mean, really…I know a bunch of Spoonies who moan about every little thing and how tough life is, and that’s fair. But then, they don’t understand why people don’t want to listen after a while.

Would she be that person? Or would the sheer weight of real constant pain with real disability and consequence just make her head implode? Before, I could listen to her. Now, every time she harps on I get really annoyed. And, I mean, I’m sure she is hurt or injured but come on! If you really knew true pain, I think you’d think twice about complaining so much…Right?

Being aware of everything

But, then, it begs the question. Am I a hypochondriac? Albeit, a silent hypochondriac but one nonetheless. I am aware of every ache, every side-effect, every potential deformity. I always blame my meds (usually the steroid) but I catalog everything! Generally, I sweep the symptoms aside and blame them on my medications (usually the steroid). And, thankfully, none have been very serious. But, I run to my rheumatologist with questions more often than I would like.

I like to think I’m not a hypochondriac just because I’m not doing it for attention. Some side effects, some symptoms are dangerous so I think it’s better to err on the side of caution…

But, am I?

What do you all think?? Let me know in the comments!

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

View Comments (28)
  • BrendaC45
    10 months ago

    I will apologize first because my first thought was that you have no way of knowing how your “friend” feels. Everyone is different, thresholds for pain, etc. Just because she doesn’t have RA doesn’t mean she is can’t have real pain. I found you to be condescending when discussing a “friend.” If she bothers you that much then stay away. Concentrating on others problems is a great way to forget about your own. Only if it’s a short time. Obviously I don’t know her but on the other side, IF she is truly trying to out-do your pain and it bugs you that much, again stay away.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hi BrendaC45! Thank you for your feedback! Yes, I think for the effect of the article I was a bit harsh. I have known this friend for almost twenty years and she has sustained some injuries. Unfortunately, she speaks about them like she just wants the attention.

    Over the years, I realized she wants someone to listen to her. I just get very critical because whenever I try to talk about what I’m going through she just steers the conversation back to her.

    You’re right. If I can’t hear it, I should stay away. I try to keep conversations medical-free and light. I hope she has someone else who will listen.

    But, this is all making me realize that relationships are very precarious. Maybe I’m that person who listens to her, but she can’t be that for me and I should look elsewhere. Maybe I just can’t hear it anymore because I also need someone to hear me and I need to move on from this friend?

    Thanks again for your comment, Brenda! I do appreciate it!! ~Monica

  • LMarie
    10 months ago

    Hi – I am new to this forum. Couldn’t resist adding my 2 cents here. I think those of us with RA are pretty tough. We deal with varying degrees of pain every day. But we get out bed, take our meds, work the kinks out, put on our best happy face and go to work, church, shopping, take care of grand kids, make holiday meals – you know – life. I will not be left out, if I have a choice. Sometimes RA wins. I’ve dealt with RA for 34 years (am 64) so I try my best to be in control.
    People with RA are good at faking it. When asked how are you – we always respond with “good” even when we aren’t. Face it, people aren’t ready for the truth and most don’t really care.
    My brother-in-law developed a trigger finger and received a steroid injection. We are very familiar with that. Well, you’d swear he just had an amputation the way he went on and on. This was new to him. He didn’t have a trigger finger for 34 years. So I give him the chance to talk about it.
    After 34 years I’ve developed coping skills. I am selective with whom I share my health issues. I am fortunate to have several people close to me who understand and allow me to vent if I need to. My husband is my best support.
    I hope each of you have or will find someone who understands.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hey LMarie! Thank you for commenting!

    I am starting to learn who and how I share my condition with. At this point, almost everyone knows I have RA but they certainly don’t understand what it is really like because I grin and bear it.

    I am so glad your husband is so supportive. My best friend is that person for me. When my hips start to seize up he offers me a piggy back ride or helps me up on to curbs, no questions asked. I still try not to talk about the RA too much just because it can get old quick but I do appreciate him!

    ~Monica

  • CaseyH moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi LMarie, and welcome to our community!! So glad you’ve joined us and that you want to participate in the discussion! I think you’re so right, you, as well as the other members of our community are pretty tough and have such determination and fight! I love how you put it, “I will not be left out, if I have a choice.” Such great words and a great perspective. I totally understand your wariness on who to tell and when about your RA, but am SO glad to hear that you have several close, caring, supportive confidants. Especially your husband. That’s amazing. Thank you again for sharing your perspective and empathetic thoughts with us. We hope you’ll continue to post and share with us! We so appreciate it–and you! -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Pwilcox
    10 months ago

    I think I am just different. On the whole, my family and friends, especially my husband has been so supportive since my RA diagnosis and I feel fortunate that I can tell them how it really feels some days. The older I get, the more I realize that I am not the only person with pain. Maybe they don’t have RA, but many of my friends have different diseases that give them much pain, discomfort and limits their activities. When someone needs to vent, I try my best to listen patiently because, maybe that day I am the person God send their way to be their sounding board. Yes, RA is a horrible disease but it is not the only chronic disease and I strive to focus on the positive every day and use my experiences to help someone else. I do keep a medical journal (I can go back 10 years and tell you the date of every Dr. apt., and everything else medical related and what was said or what procedure was done.) I also document my RA symptoms and while I don’t call my Rheumatologist outside of my appointments (I would if I felt it was something he really needed to know about), I do print my notes and take them with me so we can discuss anything that is out of the ordinary. We are all in this thing called life together and some days we just need to get it off our chest. It might be me or it might be you on any particular day. Life is short, we just need to support each other as much as it is possible within us.

  • CaseyH moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi pwilcox, what an awesome post. There are so many things I wanted to say after reading it. First of all, I’m so glad to read that you have such a great support system, especially in your husband. That is excellent and we’re so happy for you! Having genuine, compassionate ears to confide in and vent to is so great. Secondly, I loved reading your perspective on chronic conditions, and the pain others are in to. I really like how you situate what you, as well as others, are going through in a broader context, which allows you to be empathetic to others as well. You have such a kind heart. Finally, I am SO impressed with your note-taking and self-advocacy. That is truly incredible. You sound so prepared, and so in-tune with what is going on. I love that you print out your notes to discuss with your doctor to see if anything is out of the ordinary. Thank you for taking the time to share with us, and for your kindness towards others, as well as yourself. -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Mrs.Princess
    10 months ago

    This article is so perfectly me right now, in this very moment. I was writing a journal entry about not being able to accept my own realities of having RA – in particular, this stupid limp that I cannot get over -but I couldn’t hold the pen anymore, so I switched to my phone hoping I could type instead… And there, in my inbox, popped up a link to this article!

    Thank you for writing it, even though it doesn’t have “The Answer” that so many of us are looking so desperately for. Reading it and the other comments makes me feel so much more normal regarding what feels like my constant nitpickiness of how I feel **exactly,** my relentless judgement of others for their ridiculous exaggerations of “what real pain is,” and my hesitation to tell doctors – or anyone – about my true symptoms (not just the ones I can’t hide). It must have been exactly what I needed to read, bc I’ve been lurking here for months, unable to convince myself to post an introduction or a comment, though I’ve wanted to… Everything I could possibly say just seemed so trivial; who could care when everyone else is suffering, too? But I think, now… maybe that’s the point.

    People like “That Friend” have a way of making us fear that any complaint we have might be invalid, and I think, a lot of times, it leads us to self doubt, even when we know the things we’re experiencing are real. I don’t have a solution to offer for that problem… but since I’ve lurked for so long, I feel i can at least offer this, & maybe make someone else feel better, too:

    Thus far, I have yet to read a comment or post that made me think someone was overexaggerating or being a drama queen about dealing with this disease, in their own ways. Though I’ve said nothing, I’ve visited and read often, and been encouraged to know that though I regularly feel it, in truth, I am not actually alone in these experiences. It has been truly helpful. So thank you to you all, whoever might see & read this.

  • CaseyH moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi Mrs. Princess, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write so openly and honestly about the things you’ve been going through. I know you said you’ve been a lurker for a while, and we’re so glad you’re stepping out of the shadows and providing our community and its members with such great insight and personal truth. Thank you. Your encouragement is so wonderful and appreciated here, and I’m sure others feel the same. We hope you’ll continue to engage with everyone here for a long time to come! -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • cheeflo
    10 months ago

    You’re not. Hypochondria is defined as abnormal anxiety about one’s health, especially with an unwarranted fear that one has a serious disease, often centered on imaginary physical ailments. You, on the other hand, have a genuine chronic disease and your anxiety is warranted. How debilitating that is to you depends on how you roll with the punches, and it sounds like you do. People with RA have a higher tolerance for pain than most people.

    Your friend seems to be preoccupied with keeping herself the center of attention. Some people just need to constantly be in the limelight, even at the expense of others. I think you called it when you suggested that if she knew what chronic pain was really like, she might be more circumspect in her whining. But, then again … maybe not. She might just revel in it.

    I have a very dear friend who lives far away, and when she calls me on the phone, I can be sure that we will spend most of the conversation comparing notes on meds, symptoms, and the like, usually for an hour or more. I love hearing from her, but I grow weary of rehashing every little detail of our respective conditions every time she calls. Her health problems are varied and numerous, while I really only have the one issue — it’s a big one, to be sure — but I am not defined by it.

  • LynnElliott
    10 months ago

    Monica thanks for your story. I finally was diagnosed a year ago and discovered that my RA factor had been elevated but the doctor did not tell me as I had no other complaints. SIGH
    I have found that each day is unique and like you I try not to complain but then someone asks you how you feel.
    The batter is do you tell the truth and sound like a hypochondriac or do you not…
    It is a dilemma.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi LynnElliott. It certainly can be difficult to figure out just how much to say/share. As soon as I saw your post I couldn’t help but think of this article from one of our contributors on the fact that those who think people with RA fake it are correct, but not in the way they think – people with RA often have to fake being o.k.: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/faking-it/. Wishing you the best. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • LynnElliott
    10 months ago

    Perfect article Richard. Thank you for sharing it.
    This captures so many days of our lives.
    Lynn

  • LynnElliott
    10 months ago

    I meant battle not batter

  • Melody Hartuv
    10 months ago

    I asked my doctor if she thought that I was a hypochondriac. She told be that it was impossible. I was too sick!

  • CaseyH moderator
    10 months ago

    That sounds like a doctor who gets it and understands what you’re going through, Melody. Thanks for sharing with us! -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • DCSharon
    10 months ago

    What I’m finding as I get older (RA since 1989 diagnosed at age 26), is that my friends/family will complain about their own ailments related to aging. In addition to aging, I have many complications related to RA and other autoimmune diagnoses since but when you’re over 50, everyone complains about their aches and pains. I want to say to them “At least your 20s-40s weren’t wracked with pain, pills, injections, medication side effects, and surgeries!!” I actually consider myself lucky as I know so many RA sufferers who have had it much worse than me, but I find the empathy from others as I age waning rapidly, so I don’t really talk about it with anyone who doesn’t get it anymore.

  • CaseyH moderator
    10 months ago

    Thank you for taking the time to share that with us, DCSharon. Your openness and honesty is truly appreciated. I’m so sorry to hear about all you have had to endure, but I’m glad to read how amazingly you are able to put things into perspective and look toward the positive. We’re so glad to have you in our community! Wishing you some relief soon, friend. -Casey, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team

  • Mike Long
    10 months ago

    I know the feeling. I have been unable to continue my regular work since I was 35, and people just tell me I am getting old, to suck it up. I tell them that when I see my 80 year old grandpa try to stand up, that is what I feel like. Nobody gets it or will get it. I just thank God for my wife, she is awesome. I hope you have at least one person who sympathizes with you.

  • Cloudy
    10 months ago

    I think the “Am I a hypochondriac?” worry is one of the very real difficulties of living with RA.
    At one stage I thought I MUST be a hypochondriac because I had so many problems and my rheumy and GP just took them in their stride. I felt as though they were saying “What are you fussing about? This is normal.” And I guess, in a way, they were. A lot of it is normal, for a person with RA. Since then I think I’ve adjusted to a new normal, one in which I do have chronic pain.
    Of course, just when I think I’m on an even keel, RA throws up some new symptom and I’m set to guessing again. Is it a symptom of a new illness? If i see a doctor about it are they going to think “what else does she expect?!” or will they say “you really should have seen me sooner.”
    I endured plantar fasciitis for ages before seeing a doctor about it, because I thought it would improve when my new RA treatment started. When I finally saw a GP about it, a cortisone injection fixed it! if only I had seen a doctor sooner! It really is a guessing game.
    But I’ve stopped asking myself if I’m a hypochondriac, I’m not. I’m a person trying to cope with a difficult health condition.
    Most people are not really going to understand this, so I’m trying to stop telling people how I’m feeling or what I’ve been through. I just tell them what I can and cannot do today and leave it at that.
    I know in myself that I’m coping with a big challenge and i’m proud of myself for that.

  • Mike Long
    10 months ago

    Hi Cloudy. Finding pride in your efforts and accomplishment, no matter how small or trivial they may seem to someone else is awesome. I have a lot of respect for you. My Dr. told me my RA was mild, and that I would live a normal life on meds. That was 2 years ago, and now I can’t do my job, am looking at having to abandoned the business I spent the last 15 years painfully building, can barely walk up a flight of steps. My Dr. says my RA is fine it is just the work that I do. No one can give a straight answer. I have an appointment with my 3rd rheumatologist in August. Hopefully she can help.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    Hey Cloudy!

    First, yes, you should be very proud of yourself, chronic illnesses are very difficult!

    Second, I am so sorry your doctors are not really listening to you!! That is really frusturating. Are they at least treating the symptoms as they come up? Is the new GP your new go-to?

    Thanks for commenting on my article!! ~Monica (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • Carla Kienast
    10 months ago

    Part of the issue is that RA can change not only day to day, but minute by minute. A rule of thumb I use is whether the symptom/change/issue is both consistent and persistent. That is, does the same thing happen such as a pain in a joint (consistent) and does it last more than a couple of days (persistent). If it does, I make a note of it to discuss during my next office visit. If it is also serious (such as allergic reaction to medication) or interferes with my everyday life — I can’t do things, I have to take pain medication, etc. — then I contact my doctor’s office. It’s always best to let your doctor know what’s going on and always best to err on the side of caution if there is any doubt. And yes, we all have those “friends” who are in competition to be the “sickest”. I witnessed a conversation along those lines break out in the waiting room at my rheumy’s office. I’ve decided to quit being aggravated and start being amused. Nobody can make you play that game if you don’t want to.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks for commenting, Carla!!!

    I wanted to understand my condition a bit more so I started keeping journals (one of diet/meds, one for writing about my day) and I wrote every little thing. The fact that I kept track makes me wonder if I even need to! I do agree with you that we have to be careful of some symptoms so it’s better that we do keep track!

    Anger and annoyance are two emotions that take up a lot, a lot of energy so I’d definitely rather be amused! Thanks for the reminder!!

    ~Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    10 months ago

    I don’t knwo if you are or not. I blame my wife. She calls me things besides hypochondriac. I imagine that might be valid. LOL

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks for commenting on my post, Rick!!! It does make me wonder what this friend thinks of me when I talk about my RA. Since I think of her as a hypochondriac I wonder what names she calls me??

    ~Monica

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    10 months ago

    Ok, I know they are.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    10 months ago

    Yes those things my wife calls me might be valid as well.

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