Is It Me or My RA?
RATE

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.

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