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5 Things a Flaring Friend Doesn’t Need

There are a million and one ways that you can be helpful to a friend that is having a tough time with their rheumatoid arthritis. You can get them ice or heat packs. You can make sure their Netflix is stocked with awesomeness. Or you could make sure they have their assistive devices handy. All these things are super-helpful to an RA patient in need. But as much as there are great things you can do, there are also a multitude of things that we don’t need as well. Consider this a gentle, if perhaps slightly sarcastic reminder of 5 things a flaring friend doesn’t need.

5 things a flaring friend doesn’t need

1. Don’t offer advice

No matter how well-intentioned you may be, you can keep all your well-meaning advice to yourself. The last thing that we need to hear when we feel like garbage is all the things that YOU think we “should” do or try to feel marginally “better.” Please, don’t offer your advice, no matter how much you really want to. Instead, simply listen to us.

2. Don’t pity me

Yes, it may hurt you to see me this way and, believe me, I’m sorry for that. But please, don’t pity me. I know this is bad. You (probably) know this is bad. But I really don’t need your pity and if you want to throw a pity party, please, do it somewhere else. Instead, focus on what I can do.

3. Don’t leave me all alone

This is true for me, but not necessarily for everyone. I don’t like to be left all alone to wallow in my own pain when I’m having a flare. I like a little distraction. You don’t need to “entertain” me. Nor do you need to carry on intriguing conversations. But there is enormous power in your simple presence. Instead, just be with me.

4. Don’t think I’m lazy

It might be very easy for you to think I’m lazy when the dishes pile up in the sink or baskets of laundry litter the floor. But I can assure you, I am anything but. If you had any idea of the sheer willpower and determination that I need to have simply to put my aching feet on the floor each morning, then there is no way you would ever think that I’m lazy. Despite all evidence you may think you see to the contrary. Everyone says, “Oh, it must be so difficult living with that.” But if it comes down to inconveniencing them, they will be the first to put on those judgy pants and whisper behind their hand, “I just don’t understand (blah, blah, blah)…” to anyone who will listen. Perhaps instead of doing that, just love me.

5. Don’t judge me

You can take those judgy-mcjudgy pants off right now and pitch them right out the window. There is no room in any relationship for judgement of any kind. Harsh criticisms and condemnations don’t do anyone any good. Think about it, has anyone in the history of forever, ever changed anything because of the judgement of others? Nope. Nada. Yes, I know that sometimes it can be very easy to do and our brain sometimes goes there without our permission. But passing judgement on others from atop your high horse is absolutely the wrong thing to do to someone with RA. Or anyone else for that matter. You don’t know what anyone else’s life is like so there is no room for you to judge others. Instead, just accept me for who I am.

As much as you might be tempted to do these, please try your hardest to refrain. On behalf of myself and my other flaring friends in the world, we thank you.

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.


  • 14jonali
    2 months ago

    This article nails it for me. I have been sharing it. Every minute of everyday my body reminds me that I have RA. It’s affected all my relationships. Reading articles like this help me feel less alone and I thank you very very much for that!

  • David Advent moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi @14jonali, so glad this article resonated with you and your experience with RA! Thank you for your comments. Know that we, as a community, are always here for you!

    Wishing you the best,

    David ( Team Member)

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    2 months ago

    Leanne, thank you! I am much like you in that I want someone to check on me during a flare. And maybe bring me a meal! I am also much like starscream and Greta Garbo, I just want to be left alone. However, I have found I am incapable of processing advice when I am in a flare. As Kelly pointed out, we are all different. I think your points are spot on.
    Mary Sophia Hawks, moderator/author

  • MatthewGame
    2 months ago

    I’m at a works event this evening and have had to leave the room to come and have a few minutes on my own due to a mother-of-all flare-ups. And when I looked at my phone I saw this email/article. It’s great to have the thought it isn’t just me.

    Thank you. To whoever.

  • starscream
    2 months ago

    This is so specific to one person’s feelings about how they wish to be treated during a flare. In two ways I have an diametric opposite approach:

    (1) I prefer to trouble shoot problems. When I’m in pain I seek advice: How can I get to work? Can I work from home? Any suggestions how often to ice my hands? Where to get good compression gloves? Should I see my doctor during this flare or just ask for a prednisone refill? I do seek this advice mostly by text and email. I have of course gotten bad advice and repetitive advice. I have also gotten amazing advice over the years that has enabled me to keep going with a strong career. (Note: I also sought advice as a parent and when building my career before RA. I know I can learn from people).

    (2) I do not like to see people during a flare. This is because I’ve learned I have a short temper when flaring either from the pain or the prednisone. I want to be left completely alone in part so I don’t insult anyone. I communicate by text and email as needed, but otherwise prefer to be alone with my stockpile of icepacks, meds, tv shows, novels, and nuts and raisins.

    Everyone is different.

  • Deborah Hallsted
    2 weeks ago

    Since you mentioned hands-I thought I’d ask if you’ve tried coban wrap?
    I have to sleep in wrist/hand braces, or I can’t use the damn things! But when individual fingers are particularly in pain and/or swelling, I’ve found wrapping each digit in coban cuts down on the swelling and pain, and increases their mobility exponentially!

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    2 months ago

    Thanks so much for commenting starscream! You bring up a wonderful point. Everyone is different and I think the spirit of this article is about honoring yourself and what helps you most to get through a flare. Love hearing your perspective and I think it will be helpful to others to think about what strategies they prefer. We appreciate you commenting and being here. Best, Kelly, Team Member

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 months ago

    number 6,

    Please dont call Sheryl, trust me what she knows, can definitely cause me a lecture. No one needs that.

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    2 months ago

    I love the judgy-mcjudgy pants! because that’s exactly how it feels. Another great article not only voicing what all flaring RA people are thinking whenever one of the above occurs but also advice to friends and caregivers of what to do in these times. I for one am printing your article out and wallpapering my home with it. Thanks Leanne @ldonaldson

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