Thin Ice: A Winter Walk With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Last updated: February 2023

I walked with Sheryl on New Year’s Day at our favorite local park. We like this park because it is a leisurely walk with some moderate uphill terrain, but the ground is mostly flat.

The best part of the walk for me is the pond. It is a great pond, about 5 acres, the site of a former gravel pit with an island in the middle. In the summer, the pond area is cool because of the shade, and in winter, it is usually warmer because the depressed area is shielded from the wind.

Encountering wildlife and winter ice at our favorite pond

We get to see a wonderful collection of animals. Hawks are plentiful (both red-tailed and Cooper's hawks), and occasionally a pair of mute swans. Even though they are an invasive species in Indiana, I like the mute swans best. In the winter, we often see hawks perched in trees surveying the open field for prey. In the summer, we also see fishermen on the bank of the pond. However, I am skeptical about whether they catch much, which might be alright with them.

As we were walking on this day, as usual, we stopped to look at the pond. There was not much going on that day. Most of the birds were not visible and the entire area was still. But what I noticed was the ice. Parts of the pond were frozen and other parts were thawed because the temperature was an unseasonal 49 degrees Fahrenheit after many days of sub-freezing temperatures.

Thin ice can be treacherous

These ponds are hazardous to begin with because of the depth and uncertain drop-offs beneath the surface. But in the frozen/unfrozen condition, the pond is treacherous. Not a year goes by that we do not hear of a person falling through thin ice somewhere in our area.

This reminds me of where people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often find themselves. Mostly with family members, but also with doctors, insurance providers, disability companies, and many others. My "thin ice" is when someone questions whether I have RA.

Our 'thin ice' as people with RA

Maybe your thin ice happens when people question if you are as bad as you say? I hate being questioned like that, because invariably then I question myself, my doctors, and sometimes my sanity. It is so frustrating.

Or it is a doctor or human resources director who says you do not meet the clinical definition, or your blood work does not currently demonstrate that you have RA. 

If you are like me, when this happens, you become angry and begin to think: Do I have RA? Is this diagnosis for real? I have thought that many times in my last 20 years. I have often asked myself whether I am the only one who has that self-doubt.

Staying off the thin ice of self-doubt

This happens because RA is difficult to diagnose, communicate, and, worst of all, transmit how we feel. I have never experienced pain as I do with RA, and yet how do I describe it to others? I stopped trying long ago, which may cause others to put my diagnosis on thin ice in their minds. I know these comments might cause you to wonder yourself. I know all of this because it is how I often feel.

If you feel like you are on thin ice — maybe after a family gathering, or facing the process of proving you have RA once more to your employer or insurance company — take heart. This happens to many of us many times in our lives.

But when you start to wonder if your diagnosis is on thin ice, stop and tell yourself you know you, and there is no ice about that. There is never thin ice when we are honest with ourselves. 

You know you best. Remember to trust yourself and stay off the thin ice of self-doubt. In my experience, it is self-doubt that is the most destructive to my overall mental and physical health.

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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.

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