What Did I Do In Navigating My RA Diagnosis
Receiving a new diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not ideal, nor is it fun in any way. If you’re in the process of getting diagnosed or you have just been diagnosed with RA, first I want to say that I hear you, and I understand what you’re going through.
There is no set way to process or understand your diagnosis, and, at the same time, I wanted to go through how I learned to handle and process my diagnosis since October 2018. Notice the word "since." This is still something that I am learning to deal with every day and something that I imagine I will be wrestling with for the rest of my life.
Processing an RA diagnosis
The first thing that I had to do when I was first diagnosed was to give myself time to feel all of the feelings that were rushing to the surface. Some of these feelings included embarrassment, confusion, shame, depression, and, of course, fatigue. To be completely transparent, that sounds a lot better in writing than it actually happened.
Grieving alife before RA
Yes, it is important to have the time to grieve the loss of the life you lived before getting diagnosed. But, in reality, you don’t really get that much extra time to process. Your life doesn’t just magically stop — even though it might feel like it.
For me, I remember the first few days after I was first diagnosed where I felt absolutely defeated and had no idea what I was going to do. But I still had to continue going to school and work like nothing had happened, especially since the semester was over halfway completed.
This meant that my weekends became the time where I would force myself to do nothing. And by "nothing," I mean physically nothing - not mentally nothing - since this was really the only time I was able to grieve and process.
That was the first step in processing my diagnosis. Next came the troubles of getting the right medications to work for me, which I know is something that many people with RA and other chronic illnesses struggle with on a daily basis.
When I was first diagnosed, I was only put on Plaquenil since I had elevated lupus markers in addition to RA. And while Plaquenil definitely worked (though it took about three months to start working), I eventually needed something else.
This lead to me taking Humira which was another layer to navigating my RA diagnosis. Going on a biologic for the first time was scary and confusing.
Other important considerations
What have been the things that have carried me through my diagnosis and have helped me navigate it?
I continually journal to write about my experiences and to help me feel my feelings. I take frequent breaks and remind myself that I am sick, that holding myself to the expectations that I had before my diagnosis is not feasible not helpful. I try to eat as best I can and exercise every day. These are things that help me stay the course of a life with RA.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?