A man in the middle with a wide variety of faces and people around him.

The Multiple Faces of RA

Virginia Woolf once asserted in her famous novel Orlando that we all probably live about 2052 lives. Quite an arbitrary number, for sure, but what she’s referring to is the teeming multiplicity of this existence. In many respects, we have the capacity to create our own multiplicity, to squeeze what we want out of this life.

But when you add RA into the mix, that multiplicity is significantly —and often detrimentally— impacted because RA is restrictive by nature. But the main problem is that we often are not cognizant of other people’s lived experiences and becoming too concerned with the events unfolding in our own lives.

I want to use this space to share some thoughts about the interactions we have in this RA community, talking about the multiple sets of 2052 lives (each person) we interact with on a diurnal basis.

We all experience RA differently

Although seemingly obvious, everyone’s experience with RA is fundamentally different. This is due to the varying degrees of severity of the disease, the far-reaching extent of corporal impact, and the different ages at which this disease can strike.

For instance, I am only 22 and was diagnosed with severe RA. My father, now approaching 67, has a mild form of the condition and can generally live a decent life without too much trouble from RA. Our experiences with this disease are fundamentally different; that’s the natural course of life. But the point I’m trying to make is that comparing our experiences (in the sense of “I’m suffering more than you” or “You don’t have RA that bad”) is detrimental to our collective experiences with this disease.

Every RA experience, no matter how different, is valid

The reason that it’s foolish to try and compare divergent RA experiences rests in that each experience with RA is a valid one and is worth talking about, listening to, and understanding. There is no single story about this disease.

There is no one person that fully encapsulates what it means to have this disease. Each person that is diagnosed with RA brings with them a unique combination of past events, previous traumas, and different medical conditions that profoundly affect their experience with RA.

Remember: we are a community

Concomitantly, we must remember that we are a community here at RheumatoidArthritis.net. The functioning basis of this site is to provide a platform for people with RA to write about, communicate, and disseminate their experiences with this disease. It’s not supposed to be a comparison of who suffers more, who takes more medicine, etc. It’s our job as members of this community to validate and be responsive to each comment, each person, and each story that we come across.

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