a holiday table scene where the the person in the middle is hiding behind their plate as people talk to them and give them unsolicited advice.

Holiday Cheer with a Sprinkling of RA

We’re approaching the holiday season, if you can believe that! It seems like lately, time has been progressing so quickly. Those of us with chronic illnesses know that having RA really compounds the stress and anxiety that naturally occurs with the holiday season. However, this will only be my second holiday season with RA (I don’t really count the last year’s anyway since I had just been diagnosed).

So, instead of explicitly providing ways to combat the craziness that will inevitably ensue, I want to take some time today to talk about what I expect to happen during the next few months. This will include challenges that those of us with RA face in the rush of the holiday season.

Family holiday dinners

Let’s be fully transparent: family dinners are rife with potential landmines. Your uncle is trying to stir the pot in any way possible, your aunt won’t quit talking about the hashbrown casserole she made five weeks ago, and there you are stuck in the middle with RA.

RA-related thoughts are always there

While it seems that everyone at the table is talking about their phantom pains and problems, I think that these sorts of events present unique challenges to those of us with chronic conditions. While—potentially—gorging out on a buffet of deliciousness, you might begin to ask yourself: “Is this the appropriate time to talk about my RA? Why is she looking at my wrist splint like it’s a surgical device? Will anyone notice if I skip most of the dinner to be by myself?” (and yes, these are all from personal experiences, especially the last one!).

Unwanted advice during the holiday season

Let’s also not forget how the holiday season can be the perfect time for your loved ones to provide you with all sorts of anecdotal but ultimately specious advice for your RA. Usually, those conversations go like this:

Family member: “oh, so you have RA?”
Me: “Yes ma’am!”
Family member: “Wow, you know, that is awful, you know, I was just reading somewhere that eating chocolate-covered blueberries every day, three times a day, can alleviate arthritis symptoms, have you ever tried that?”

My response to family members

It’s a conversation I’m sure we’re all familiar with. I know that these family members have the best of intentions for us to heal from our condition but it still can be annoying (and honestly rather insulting) when we work so hard to find the right medicines that help our bodies find relief from this disease. My usual response is: “While I appreciate the intention and advice, I think I’ll stick to my Humira right now, as it’s working well for me.”

Everyone's holiday experience is different

Of course, your interactions with your family are unique to your situation. You might have loved ones who are incredibly supportive and know what/what not to say during the stressful holiday season. All jokes aside, the holidays can be stressful, but they’re a powerful reminder that we live with our conditions every day.

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