Is It Me or My RA?

Is It Me or My RA?

Last updated: March 2020

Lately, I’ve been having some cranky days. I really do take seriously my emotional state and how it influences my rheumatoid arthritis. Perhaps it is silly, but I feel staying positive and tapping into joy is both a practice and a necessity for staying as healthy as possible.

But what to do about the cranky train? I can’t tease apart this question: are my achy and stiff joints making me cranky or is my mood making them feel that way (or just worsening the usual)?

The relationship between RA symptoms and mood

I really used to be sure that it was my mood that affected my joints. But I am now less certain. I am feeling like this low-grade constant grind of my joints is eroding my mood and making me grouchier than I would like.

RA pain brings down my energy and mood

Popping more prednisone makes me feel better for a bit, but it is not a practical solution for the long term. Maybe meditation would be helpful here. I’m seeking a way to fend off how pain brings me down—not just my energy, but my mood.

It feels like an anchor. I have less ability to connect with others, to have the capacity to reach out of my own pain. It takes away my patience. I don’t want to sit and listen to stories, ask questions about how other people are doing, participate in other lives. It feels isolating, but also exhausting. It’s a lack of energy for dealing with others that makes me short-tempered and my words sharper than I intend.

A cranky mood requires me to retreat for a bit

I try to remind myself that crabby days are temporary. Tomorrow is another day. If I don’t feel great today, doesn’t mean that I won’t do better tomorrow.

But I also need to retreat on these days. I can’t expect myself to socialize heavily, but instead should have some quiet time or rest. My husband is very understanding. On those days I may go to bed early or sit and read awhile. It can be harder on workdays, to muster the energy. Sometimes it feels like I am working hard to be civil and I feel bad about it because I enjoy my work and like my coworkers.

A cranky mood is truly my RA speaking

It’s hard to explain to others that sometimes when I am cranky or strident, it is truly the RA speaking. It’s not 100 percent my own voice, but the rigidity of achy joints talking. When I get these running pains down my forearms and throbbing in my wrists, I know it will be an especially challenging day for my mood and energy.

A need to vocalize how RA pain affects my mood

I think I need to be more vocal about my bad days, but I also just want to keep it to myself. I, at once, don’t want to be treated differently, yet also want understanding from others about how terrible I feel. It may not be possible to have both. And I feel bad about sharing how badly I feel.

Sometimes I tell my husband, “It is an achy day” and I immediately worry that I have burdened him with a weight or knowledge that he can do nothing about. Does it help him to know or is it just spreading the pain unnecessarily?

RA pain symptoms and mood are tied together

In the end, I have to accept that my crankiness is both me and my RA. It is too entangled to extricate, though I don’t mind trying to blame the disease as a scapegoat! My achy joints eat away at my mood on bad days and that means both my RA and my attitude must be monitored and managed. I will keep practicing self-awareness and work on recognizing (and compensating) for my cranky joints.

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