How Not to Cope with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Last updated: October 2022
Lately, people have been asking a lot how I cope with RA and the host of adorable secondary conditions that come with it. Well, here’s my answer: I just do! Awesome! Talk soon.
Hmmm, you’re still here? Don’t you have some jigsaws to puzzle or physical to therapy? You want more? FINE-UH! I suppose, “I just do,” doesn’t really do much for anyone who legitimately wants to know, and frankly, it doesn’t do much for me either. I guess we’ll spend some time unpacking just what goes into coping with that wonderful constellation of symptoms and conditions that make up rheumatoid arthritis, and what “just doing it” really means.
How do I cope with RA? I just do!
If I’m being honest, though, I wasn’t kidding when I said, “I just do.” I think anyone who has suffered with chronic illness for long enough knows exactly what I mean when I say that. It’s the same reason people still watch The Walking Dead even though the show has clearly jumped the shark – we just do because that’s what we’ve been doing forever (or at least it feels like it). Having to actually dissect what goes into those coping skills (and TV watching habits) is a bit more difficult. I think the first thing to address rather than how, is why.
Adapting to RA is something you have to do
Over the years, I’ve been called many things – hero, inspiration, a rock, and, of course, modest (duh). All of those are inevitably followed by that phrase we’ve all heard, “I don’t think I could do it if I was in your shoes,” or something close. I usually just smile and say thanks as if someone just called me “Dennis” by mistake, but in my head I’m always thinking, “Yes, you could do it because you’d have to.”
What other choice do I have?
Seriously, what’s the other option for me or anyone who has chronic illness? Roll over and stick my arms and legs in the air like a dead looney tunes character? Say, “Screw this!” and squeeze my buns together so hard that the RA just squirts right out of my ears? Dip myself in a tub of essential oils and walk around all glistening and slippery? Well, maybe that last one, but only for fun! Certainly not for dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. The fact is that any human who gets RA must deal with it, there’s no way around it, and you would too. It’s what humans do: we adapt, and it’s nothing special.
We manage RA using methods that work for us
Now that we’ve gotten the why out of the way, we can get down to some of the how. Each of us has our own ways of coping and the specifics vary as much as people’s preference for Coke and Pepsi. (Obviously, Coke is superior in every single way and only people who like flat brown juice that tastes like poison filtered through an old sock drink Pepsi, but no judgment.) Whether it’s heat or cold, meds or acupuncture, Coke or poison, I mean Pepsi, the overall approach is always the same – we do whatever works.
“Yeah, but what works for you?”
“Yeah, but what works for you?” I hear you asking somehow through the internet. Well, what works for me is a combination of a few things. First, there’s pain meds, then sometimes I also use pain meds, and even on occasion I mix in some pain meds when it gets really bad. One time, I decided to be adventurous and I tried some pain meds!
Sorry, but there is only one thing that really works well enough for me to be considered a remedy – pain meds. How do I know this? Well, because in the thirty-some-odd years I’ve dealt with RA, I’ve tried everything out there. No, really, I mean everything. Don’t believe me? Well let’s go through the list, shall we?
Different things I've tried for my RA
I’ve tried acupuncture. It didn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong: if you like sitar music, plastic ferns and babbling brook sounds played from an Amazon Alexa speaker, then great, you do you. Unfortunately, lying down in that darkened room I couldn’t relax. All I kept thinking about was the $125 bucks I just spent to have a full MD doctor tell me I was “so young” to have RA. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Besides, I had already had so many needles poked into me that I am legitimately classified as an archery target for insurance purposes.
Next, I tried diets upon diets upon diets. No tomato diet, no artificial anything diet, no sugar diet, no gluten diet, no wheat diet, and the no food diet. None of them did anything for me, and I know I’m going to get some angry comments saying, “But the turnip diet worked for me!” and that’s wonderful for you and the turnips but all that dieting never did anything but make me hungry and frustrated. Hungerated. Frusturungry?... Frungry! That’s the one.
I was definitely frungry, and that word I didn’t just makeup is the only thing that resulted from all that dieting. Besides, do you know how difficult it is to find something with no artificial ingredients, no tomatoes, no sugar, and no wheat at a restaurant? Keep in mind this was years ago before everyone went free-trade organically crazy. I’d order a water and...a lettuce leaf. Hold the flavor. Ugh.
Coping with RA is a personal journey
Copper bracelets, yoga, hot yoga, goat yoga, hot goat yoga - look, here’s the bottom line: coping with RA is as personal as your underwear – you wear what makes you comfortable and the only ones you show to people are the ones you want them to see (hopefully not on laundry day). Meditation, medication, elevation, delectation or vacation – it doesn’t matter.
Whatever helps you, do that
I know you are probably thinking, “Well this post didn’t help me at all,” but that’s kind of the point. Try anything you think will help, and whatever helps YOU, do THAT. I can’t choose for you, but I can tell you that the only person who can figure it out is the one who knows the most about your body. I’m talking about you. Yes you, the me reading this right now. That being said, I may not know how you’ll do it, but I can absolutely assure you that you will do it. Cope, that is, because unless you want to simply give up and lock yourself away like some RApunzel (see what I did there), you’ll have to find a way to live life. Talk soon.
Have you struggled to afford your RA medications?