Lessons from the Pandemic the World Seems Quick to Forget
Last updated: April 2023
Now that, for pretty much everyone else, the recent pandemic is clearly in the rearview mirror of life, I’d like to take a closer look at what the pandemic should have taught us about so many things, but specifically about living with a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis.
Lessons from the pandemic
I know not everyone cares enough about those of us with chronic illnesses to really consider what life is like for us, but for those who do, I hope this can give you a glimpse into the ongoing reality that someone with a chronic illness continues to live with day to day.
Stress of RA uncertainty
For a while, pandemic life presented a particularly high level of uncertainty. There were many elements about it that we didn’t know or have answers to. The severity, duration, and risk factors of the disease were all unclear and unknown, and that uncertainty was experienced by humanity worldwide. But what people don’t seem to realize is that the type of uncertainty experienced during the pandemic is just a small taste of what people with rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic illnesses live with every day.
Living with the unknown
We don’t know how much our diseases will change our bodies. We don’t know each day how good or bad we will feel, or what we will or won’t be capable of. This level of uncertainty, day in and day out, presents a certain stress on our bodies beyond just the disease itself. Not to mention the uncertainty about medications, disease progression, and workability.
The life of isolation and loneliness
Life with rheumatoid arthritis can lead to isolation and loneliness for many reasons. Aside from the pain and fatigue caused by the disease itself, many of the medications used to manage it also suppress our immune systems, making us more likely to get sick. So when the rest of the world goes back to a mask-free, socially-distancing-free life, for us, it is just asking for trouble. Plus, the added bonus of it taking longer for our bodies to fight infections when we do get sick. So, while the pandemic forced “normal” people into a life of isolation and loneliness, it is sadly the same isolation and loneliness felt by many with RA/RD all the time.
Making plans that are always subject to change
Did you spend hundreds of dollars on tickets only to have the event canceled? Were you reluctant to make plans because of the possibility of wasting money or disappointing friends and family? Welcome to daily life with rheumatoid arthritis. The world is quick to forget what it is like to live trying to make plans for events and get-togethers that are always subject to change, through no fault of our own.
Let's not forget that we are all called to be empathetic people
While there are many things about life during a pandemic that I’m happy to say goodbye to, and a great many lessons we have learned, I simply wish that some of the empathy and understanding we all learned a little more about would stick around for a bit longer.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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