Is It Me or My RA?

Is It Me or My RA?

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)?

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.

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.

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 work days, 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.

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.

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?

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.

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 (9)
  • jan curtice
    2 years ago

    Wow, we were just discussing this in our RD support group yesterday. Which came first … the grumps or the RD (pain/symptoms)? Where do the grumps come from? And is that an invisible symptom of the disease? We also talked about how often there is an underlying thread of anger with the grumps that surfaces/lashes out. So, where does it come from: PAIN, yes. BODY FATIGUE/STRESS, yes. UNRESOLVED LOSS caused by the disease, yes. (this can be anything from not being able to participate in former activities to a changed lifestyle). MEDICATION side effects, yes (talk to your doctor!); SLEEP ISSUES, yes. BOREDOM, yes. The most important thing is to accept that it is OK to be feel grumpy/angry/cranky at times. However, it is also important to own those feelings, be responsible. If necessary, I usually let those around me know that I’m having an “off day” and my mood isn’t the best. We also want to make sure that we don’t turn permanently into “Grumpy Cat”. =^^=

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Jan, thanks for your fantastic comment. So helpful to read your perspective. Yes, we definitely have to acknowledge the physical reasons we may be experiencing the grumps and not be too hard on ourselves. Thanks so much! Best, Kelly

  • samanges
    2 years ago

    Thank you Kelly for putting the moods in perspective for me. I don’t want RA to define me, but the past week or so it has. In a not so nice way. My most recent depomedrol shot has wore off. Oh my the mornings are horrendously slow until I can move with some semblance of a human. I could get another shot, it is time, but I see a new rheumatologist July 7 as my favorite MD has retired, and I want her to see the real deal. Not a masked over semi-condition. I have found myself to be a bit more negative lately. My husband and daughters are very understanding, but I often answer I am doing okay to their questions even on a bad day. Those days I need to cry but am afraid I will never stop. You see I am a nurse of 40 years and my mother had RA in it’s most severe state dying at the age of 62 from organ failure related to the disease and all her medicines. I am now 62. Today I truly did look upward and say “Mom, how did you live with this pain every day and never, ever complain”. Yet I know what she would say. “Because I was afraid if it got worse I would have nothing to lean on”. A very wise woman. Emotions are a good thing when you keep them in perspective. Use the ones you need and save some for later.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, samanges. Hoping you are feeling at least a little bit better. Hang in there. Best, Kelly

  • Ed Burgoyne moderator
    2 years ago

    Hey Kelly, thanks for sharing this and giving us something to think about. Taking a moment each day to do a system review of how our body is feeling is important, but we often forget about our mood and emotions. Remember that thing you are suffering from? That RA thing? If you are having bad days that get you into grumpy and cranky, you are a much better person than I am.
    Our bodies have been attacked and is fighting a battle that will never end. We have the right to be cranky from time to time. But sadly I occasionally find my mental status, even with my mild and in somewhat controlled RA, pushing if not crossed over into the zone of anger and hate. A day can become long when you start out angry inside.
    But this is the hand that life has dealt me. I have had to learn to manage the RA and the stress it puts on me, all around. My pain and anger is mine and it is not fair to others if I share it with them. It does no one any good if I let the monster out.
    That may be one of the reasons that I go for long runs. It takes the fight out of the beast.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Ed, thanks so much for the supportive words and good advice. I like how running helps you “take the fight out of the beast.” For me, that would be meditation and I need to do more of it! 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    2 years ago

    For years, I told my sons that I have big shoulders. They could blame pretty much anything on me if it kept them out of trouble.

    I bet RA has big enough shoulders to accept blame, even if it is not entirely justified.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks Rick! I really like that. 🙂 Best, Kelly

  • Erin Rush moderator
    2 years ago

    That’s a good way of putting it, Lawrence! Thank you for sharing. And can I say you sound like a pretty great dad as well? I hope you have a great Father’s Day! Thank you for sharing. Best, Erin, RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member.

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