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The RA Fraud

The RA Fraud

Sometimes I feel like a fraud.

Like this morning, for instance. I was filling out one of those online RA self-assessment questionnaires, the type that ask questions like “In the past week, how hard was it for you to get out of bed?” The answers range from “Not hard at all” to “Terribly hard.”

My answer was “A little bit hard.” The other questions and answers came out about the same. Getting dressed and tying my shoes was “A little bit hard.” Could I walk a kilometer or mile? Yes, but “with difficulty.” When it asked how hard it would be for me to carry a basketful of laundry up a flight of stairs, I finally had to draw the line–I just can’t do that. My hands are too sore and tender, and the very thought of carrying a full laundry basket anywhere, let alone up a flight of stairs, makes me cringe and go all trembly around the mouth.

But my answer wasn’t entirely truthful. Because, in fact, I could do it if I had to. And I have done it many, many times when my pain from rheumatoid disease was far worse than it is today. My laundry had to be done and there was no one else to do it for me. To this day I can’t remember those Bad Old Days without becoming frightened that they might one day return.

Except for that one, all my self-assessment answers were fairly positive this morning. I may have RD, but the medicines I’m taking seem to be keeping it under decent control. I’m in pain every day, but its intensity varies. Most of the time it’s moderate, say, a “five” on a doctor’s office pain scale. That means that while the pain might affect what I can do, how much I can do, and for how long I can do it, there really isn’t much that I just can’t do.

And that’s why I sometimes feel like a fraud, particularly when I’m interacting via social media, email, and in person with others who share this nasty autoimmune disease with me.

RD impacts many of them profoundly. I talk to people every day, via Twitter, who’re coping with devastating pain and disability. Many of them can barely get out of bed in the morning, let alone tie their shoes, carry laundry, or walk a freaking kilometer. In contrast, while I’m usually fairly stiff upon rising in the morning, I don’t have much trouble doing it. Sure, I lurch around like a zombie for an hour or so, and usually wince and cuss under my breath when I lift the pot to pour my coffee, but really, it’s nothing compared to what others go through. My heart breaks for them as I read their tweets. I try to express my understanding and care, and I always wish them well, but I know my words can’t do much for them.

Yet, I also know how much I’d have liked to read or hear those encouraging, understanding words myself, back when I was in such awful shape and carrying heavy baskets of laundry up and down multiple flights of stairs (among other things, like working full time). And, today, when my own pain is bad enough that I tweet about it, I know how words like that from others who totally comprehend my pain comfort me. They can’t take it away, but they soothe my soul and lift my spirits.

The pain, stiffness, fatigue, and disability of RD impacts each of us differently–and we all perceive and cope with it differently, as well. When I feel like an RD fraud, like I did this morning, I have to remind myself of this. I also have to remind myself that while this week I didn’t have much trouble living with my disease, next week may be another story entirely. Over the last year, my RD has doubled in intensity, and I’m experiencing symptoms now, like fatigue, that I never had much trouble with in the past. It’s unpredictable. It’s fickle. It makes each and every one of us feel like frauds one day and totally legit the next.

I’ll keep doing that self-assessment quiz for research, but I’m not going to allow it to make me question the sometimes grim reality of my daily life with RD any more.

I have laundry to do.

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.


  • Teresa Perret
    4 years ago

    You bring up such an interesting thought, because I think that pain scale is a moving target for us. I’ve always had an incredibly high tolerance for pain and have looked askance at others for admitting or “giving in” to pain long before my diagnosis. My new rheumy thinks I actually have juvenile onset that didn’t manifest in a way that made anyone notice it and I’ve always just learned to ignore each symptom until an X-Ray showed bone erosion in my foot and the doctor said I have RA. It’s funny because I kind of always knew that! But that’s another story. So anyway, when someone asks me where’s your pain on the scale I really have to think carefully about my answer since I’m always at about a normal persons 5. And I think it’s probably the same for those functionality scales. Do we do as much as a healthy person? Maybe not, but have we found amazing ways to compensate and work around or through our daily tasks? Most days, yes!

  • Nes
    4 years ago

    So very true! My third med is finally kicking in and I have more good days than bad. I too growl under my breath when I can’t do something the way I want but do it anyway like most do. I dread the day my meds don’t work or fatigue sets in so bad I can’t get through the day. I rejoice in everyday that I can feel like a fraud…because in reality to those without RA I am a fraud and those of you who share this horrible disease I am happy to be your fraud friend!

  • Kellie
    4 years ago

    There have been times when I actually feel fairly good. It hasn’t ever lasted long since the biologics only work for awhile then quit. Today just the thought of doing anything strenuous makes me cringe.

    You said you tweet with others with RA, is there a group on Twitter? This is the only place I go to for help.

  • Wren moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi, Kellie!

    If you’ll scroll up, look on the right side of the page. You’ll see a list of other social media sites we’re on, including Twitter. Once you’ve clicked on the Twitter site, look at “Followers” at the top of the page, and click. You’ll see a long list of others, including me, who have RD and tweet about it. Join us!

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. 😀

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