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Grin and Bear It

Grin and Bear It

I recently made some new friends and I have yet to tell them about my Rheumatoid Arthritis. They know I have it because of social media but I have yet to say “I have RA and this is what it is.” In a way, it’s nice that I don’t get the look (you know, the one with the slight head tilt) or the questions (plus the look). I don’t have to talk about it or bring it up. It’s just nice to forget about my condition just for a little while.

Is it biology?

Now on days when my body is screaming in agony and I still have to go out to work or hang out with friends; on the days I can’t hide my pain or disability I push through and try to hide my RA as much as possible. Why? Is it pride? Is it stubbornness? Is it biology?

Every other mammal in the animal kingdom is attracted to the prize of the species; the one with the best genes (the brightest colors, the most strength, etc.). Humans are the same way. And I’m not talking just romantic relationships, any ones really. We are attracted to people who are confident, bright and have similar interests to our own.

Is nature working against me?

I recently wrote about how I felt like I scraped the bottom of the human barrel and (unfortunately) found myself comparing myself to others. I make a huge effort, sometimes using more energy than I have, to make myself seem “normal”. Seriously, though…Why? We all know I am extraordinarily proud… and stubborn… Do I also have sheer nature working against me?

For some odd reason, whenever I tell people about my RA they take it as personal slight. I’m not sure why because as far as I’m aware, they don’t live with the same mobility issues, the same pain, the same chronic condition. But, somehow, they think that because I have a disability it somehow affects them; that they have to make accommodations for me.

I can’t say that I know what people think, maybe they just don’t like that I’m not as strong or “cool” as they thought I was. Maybe it is pure biology! In their eyes I am at the bottom of the pack and they can’t be bothered with me.

Looking “normal”

I do such a good job of looking “normal” that I don’t really blame people for not believing me. Why should they? I still do everything I did before the diagnosis (albeit a little worse) and my pain and the side effects are internal. Others don’t see it so why should they believe it? (heh, that rhymes!)

People get annoyed because I “talk about it too much” (imagine having RA!). I have to hear about their highly boring life yet I can’t mention I need to stand for a second or make a quick lap to unstick? Is it my problem they are uncomfortable hearing self-deprecating jokes so I need to zip the lip? That sounds like a them problem not a me one.

Maybe it’s pure biology. We like things to be easy and simple. We look to the least amount of work, we often choose flight over fight if the result is not worth our energy.

Maybe because I’m not the physical crème of the crop others just can’t be bothered with me and maybe that’s why I grin and bear the burden silently; so I can assimilate into the usual society and still be viewed as viable human being.

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

  • g2wa8b
    7 months ago

    Can anyone recommend an online RA support group? Thanks in advance.
    Ruby

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hey Ruby (@g2wa8b)! Thanks for reaching out on my article!

    Have you checked out our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RheumatoidArthritisDotNet/) Community members check the comments section on new articles frequently and are very supportive and kind.

    If you search “Rheumatoid Arthritis” on Facebook itself there are some great support groups that pop up pretty immediately. You can tell from community rules how kind the people generally are. I hope this helps and please reach out here if you ever want to talk! ~Monica

  • HH66
    7 months ago

    Hi Monica –
    Have you considered a support group.? Your article speaks volumes to me. I get it. And I’ve found a whole tribe of friends in the Arthritis Foundation support groups. They are all over the country and it’s nice to hang around with people who get it too. They can just read your face and know. We have fun outings and educational programs that also teach us how to be kind to ourselves and surprisingly get us to push ourselves to have a little fun. Think about it! Maybe you can find your tribe too.

    Heidi

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hey Heidi!! (@hh66) Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I am so sorry I am just responding now!!

    I really should look into it. I find the online community here at RA.net so kind, caring and helpful that I want to look into a physical group as well.

    Thanks again! I hope you are doing well! ~Monica

  • norraff67
    7 months ago

    Dear Monica,

    I know what you mean. I have had RA for almost 22 years. Back then I think I tried not to complain at all if I could. I’m just a very private person and also, I didn’t want to come off as someone who was this huge whiner. I worked full-time with 4 kids, then part-time and continued to lead my normal life. At least to people on the outside. About 10 years ago, I developed Fibromyalgia. In the past 5 years I have stopped working. It was to the point where I spent Friday after work until Monday morning in bed. No life at all. I think people got so used to me acting “fine” that they don’t see it anymore. My kids are older now and even though my health is worse, there are people who think I don’t work because I’m lazy. Ha! Makes me laugh. My hands are deformed and twisted and I have RA in basically every joint, but people see me and think I look “fine” so I must be fine. I don’t even bother trying to explain that there are times when I’m out that I could easily curl up on the floor because I am that miserable. When people hear you have MS or Lupus even they seem more sympathetic but I think people just consider RA just some mild arthritis. I do have some fabulous friends who have understood from the beginning just how hard some days, weeks, months are just to get through a day. I know this is very long winded, sorry, just needed to get this out I guess. Hang in there.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hey @norraff67!! I am so so so sorry I didn’t reply to your comment earlier!

    First, please never apologize for commenting and venting on my articles! I love to hear other people’s experiences and hey, we all know how frustrating and isolating this disease can be.

    It sometimes really amazes me how people choose not to believe us. Even though our symptoms are (mostly) internal it’s pretty obvious on our faces we’re not well. My father tries to remind that people are generally pretty self-absorbed. Lol.

    Though, like you, I do have some great friends who are there for me and I appreciate them all the more because of it.

    Thanks so much for commenting again and please reach out whenever you want! ~Monica

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    7 months ago

    Oh Monica! I hurt for you as I read this. Very few people without autoimmune diseases understand what we go through just to get out of bed. I believe that many of your friends are afraid that it will happen to them. OR, they aren’t true friends who will listen and help. Instead, they are acquaintances along for a fun time. Because of your young age, your friends have not had issues that required them to become truly compassionate.
    This is not your fault! And, you should not have to grin and bear it alone. If you are having a tough day, go ahead and show your symptoms outwardly. What you will find is that your true friend(s) will emerge with caring instincts. The rest will be uncomfortable, which is their issue and not your fault.
    Most of all, remember that you have friends here who understand and will always listen.

    MS

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hey Mary Sophia!!

    You are so right. I have found out who my friends are. There are the people I’ll only see when I’m well and there are the best friends who offer to stop walking so I can take a breather or help me onto a sidewalk curb without asking (because they see it coming).

    I definitely think being young with a disability has its obstacles but hopefully I can navigate and find the good people! ~Monica

  • Richard Faust moderator
    7 months ago

    Thanks for sharing such kind thoughts MS. My wife, Kelly Mack (a contributor here), was diagnosed at two years old and her RA has pretty much always been visible, so has had a lifetime of experience in how others most often don’t know quite how to handle RA (or any disability for that matter). In this article she writes about managing other people’s perceptions of RA: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/managing-peoples-perceptions-ra/. Although the title could probably just as easily be “not managing other people’s perceptions.” Wishing you the best. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    7 months ago

    Thanks Richard! I always love Kelly’s articles and yours too.
    MS

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    7 months ago

    @mysengupta I have been lucky in that my friends have been amazing – a unique experience that I had no idea was unique until I talked to other RA patients. I even remember my friends carrying me into bed several times. The problem I have now is that aftermy wife left now i have to date. UGH. So the whole “when do I talk” comes into play. Now with the added cancer and everything, it’s like how long do I sit on that? Too early and it scares them off, too late and they feel like you lied to them. I get it. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thanks for commenting Daniel!! So, funny story (ish), I disclosed my condition to my best friend and I had to endure snide comments about how I was lazy and unmotivated or how I talked about my condition too much…

    Let’s just say he’s not my best friend anymore. Though, in the last few months he has had change of heart and is trying to be more empathetic. It’s a little weird honestly!

    On the flip side, I can hand my silverware to my true best friend and without asking he knows I need help cutting my food.

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    7 months ago

    Daniel, I understand. In addition to RA, my husband committed suicide. Try talking about that on a date!
    In all seriousness, I’m so sorry for your RA and cancer. It sounds like you have fabulous friends. For me, my friends are enough.
    MS

  • tckrd
    7 months ago

    Keep going you will find the right person you can trust again.

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