A gift wrapped speech bubble being opened to show a gloomy scene beneath a happy one

The Happy Ending Story and Rheumatoid Arthritis

How many times have you felt pressure to wrap up your latest RAchallenge into a happy bow for your friends and loved ones? This is something I fall prey to a lot and I’m starting to wonder why.

Reason for not sharing my RA challenges

I think I do it because I care about them and I don’t want them to suffer along with me. I also think that I do it because when I state my actual reality, I have to have a much longer conversation about something that I have very little control over and I inevitably will hear well-meaning ideas that aren’t helpful.

I do it too because it feels good to state the fairytale out loud. “This will be a short hiccup, I’ll be better soon. I’ve handled this plenty of times before, I can do it again. My new medicine should kick in soon.” These words sound great when uttered even though we all know that they may or may not be true.

Are my challenges with RA "okay"?

Going through extended periods of time not feeling well is something we’ve all been through. This is another time where I feel the pressure to tell the people around me that it’s going to be okay, even though I don’t know that it will be.

What if I tell the truth about my RA?

I have to ask myself, "What is okay?" Is it okay to lose a joint due to rheumatoid arthritis damage? I’ve said that it is. Is it okay that I’ve lost years of time during the prime of my life in severe pain? I’ve said it’s okay because it has to be. The alternative is to suffer more with feelings of victimization, and long ago I told myself victim isn’t in my vocabulary.

What if I told the truth - I don’t think this is okay, but it is my reality. I’d have to deal with the response of pity, something I recoil against. So, it’s best not to. Or so I’ve told myself.

It's time for honest conversations about RA

I’m paying attention to the voices in the world right now, people who aren’t turning away from the hard conversations that need to be had. I’m realizing that by sticking to happy ending stories and platitudes, I’m doing myself and the people around me a big disservice. I have to be brave enough not to recoil at the first response, because a person who doesn’t live in your experience will never get it right the first time, and that’s okay.

Not shielding others from the harsh realities of RA

Instead, if I have the courage, I can engage in real conversations and tell my truth. It’s not my responsibility to manage the response or to shield my loved ones from the harsher realities that I live with. It is my responsibility to speak up when I have the opportunity, not in a victimized way, but as a way to keep my true voice in the conversation, as a way to keep the conversation real.

So, the next time I feel the urge to tell someone that this flare-up I’m currently in will end soon, I’m going to stop. I’m going to, instead, say how I really feel. I’m worried. I’m noticing changes that concern me. I’m exhausted. And I’m doing the best that I can.

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Related articles:
How Am I Doing? The Dreaded Question - David Advent
RA: The Trouble With Talking About It - Kat Elton
Not Talking About the Pain - Kelly Mack

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