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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 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 week ago

    No doubt each person is, well individual. We should never race to be the worse off. That is a race none of us can win. Because like the old saying, the first liar dont stand a chance. I do not want to get in that race.

  • nstott
    1 week ago

    I have had RA for 40 years and since about 6 months in have talked very little about it. (It is a long story about the loss of a “friend” about 6 months after my diagnosis.) As I have gotten older – to the stage where women spend way too much time talking about their ailments – I have found many people play a game of one-upmanship. “My ailment is worse than yours” type of thing. It’s a game I refuse to play. I recently found out a member of my card-playing group was diagnosed with RA 6 years ago and was really surprised she wanted to “play the game.” That really surprised me as I have found others with RA are generally pretty respectful about the pain of others. I guess this just reinforced that my lack of sharing and comparing is the right way (for me) to go. But it is isolating.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 week ago


    I tend to overshare my information, but I also work had not to race to the bottom of how bad things are.

    What i have appreciated is that when I am with a group of people who are telling their woes, things seem to improve when even one person says they are doing well. In fact i try to make it a little game. What can I say that will stop that conversation the quickest. I hope you give it a try. RA is isolating without others. It is amazing the impact talking to others will have for ourselves.

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