Apples and Oranges: Comparisons and RA

Despite knowing that my own situation with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is unique and that no one else likely has the same experience, I still find myself falling into the comparison pit now and then.

Reasons why we compare

After years and years of knowing hundreds of others with RA, I can credibly say that no two of us are alike in our journey with RA. But, even so, when in a conversation with someone with RA, I listen intently and often try to find out how we “compare” in terms of our experience with the disease. 

Human nature often drives us to find these commonalities as a way to cope with stress, a way to endorse decisions we make, and to connect with other people. These are not the only reasons, but they sure do apply to RA.

Validation of a chaotic condition

I remember discussions within our support group and just how often we would compare our experiences with doctors, with medications, with diagnoses, etc. It was a way to validate what was going on with this often chaotic and unpredictable condition. 

A sense of relief

Should someone find a commonality, let’s say with a doctor, we would almost feel a sense of relief to know that someone else was having the same experience. 

I remember one time when I was trying to sort out some treatment options when one of our group members, who had been diagnosed decades before me, offered some advice and shared how similar our paths seemed.

Comparison as a way to connect with others

I felt such a sense of connection and almost a calmness, feeling I was not alone.

So many of the decisions we are forced to make with RA are far from clear-cut. The range of treatments, medications, insurance options, social choices, exercise options, and on and on, are as varied as each of us. 

I have come to realize that the best way to approach these comparisons is to review them with interest and as a way to connect but to not let them rule how I approach my management of RA. That remains uniquely mine.

Feeling less than my peers

Another area where comparison has reared its head is within my peer group; by that, I mean women in my age range, but who do not have RA.  

For instance, I am around the same age as the moms of my daughters-in-law. Yet, I cannot “compete” when it comes to being able to do the same tasks as them. Both of them are much more physically able to help out while my contributions need to be fashioned around my ability within the RA world I inhabit.

How do I measure up?

I need to mention that no one in my family, including these wonderful women, has ever, in any way, made me feel like I must somehow “measure up.” That is an onus I place on myself. But place it, I do. It is not something I think of regularly, but from time to time it comes up. And in those moments, I feel “less than.”

I think it pops up because it is human nature to compare ourselves with others like us. From the time we are youngsters, we learn to compete and it is not an easy tendency to let go. That said, I am trying to catch myself when these urges arise.

Practicing confidence building

We need to stop this emotionally harmful practice. I have found doing confidence-building affirmations help.

I also have determined that doing activities that allow me to contribute while knowing I can handle them within my RA world builds my confidence and gives me satisfaction. 

That strengthens my emotional health and provides me with the boost I need to, hopefully, avoid the comparison pit in the future.


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