Please note that I am not an expert on rheumatoid arthritis. My goal is to discuss the disease as it affects me and my hope is give others who have loved ones with the condition so idea of what is like live with a chronic and debilitating pain characteristic condition.
For a patient dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the physical and emotional aspects go hand and hand. Treatment in each individual is as different as is the disease progression and variation is in each patient. In other words, what works for one patient being treated may not work for another. The treatment of the disease plays an important role in the emotional and internal state of the patient. For me, I think each individual’s physical and mental states play an important role in the manifestation of the disease since any disease manifests itself uniquely to its host.
One of the first indications of a flare-up is extreme fatigue. This is a time when more sleep becomes significant and no matter how much you rest, it never seems to be enough. That extreme feeling of fatigue plays an overall role in your mental state. For me, I don’t perform as well as I usually do at my job. I try to stay home more than I would if I were feeling well. I can’t spend as much personal time with my children as I would like to and I ignore tidying up my home (I am a clean freak, but RA takes away a lot from me). Focus and concentration is quite difficult. Your fuse is short and you find yourself lashing at those you love.
As soon as the stiffness and pain kicks in, you are thrown back and ability to be as protective as you were before becomes non-existent. The pain and stiffness forces you miss out the activities and hobbies you love and the things that you like to do with your loved ones. I feel like a toxin is eating me up from the inside. The lack of energy zaps away your self-confidence. The lack of sleep is adding to your unhappiness and you feel lonely like no one can possibly understand what you are going through. It is like a ticking time bomb waiting to erupt.
Another fellow sufferer told me that the hardest part for her is not being able to plan because you never how severe or minimal your upcoming flare up will be. The embarrassment of the condition adds to your emotional state during your flare-ups. Motor skills slow down and the inability to concentrate kicks in. I sometimes feel I have no energy to walk from one place to the next. The same questions and thoughts are constantly on your mind. “I am too young for this.” “My joints aren’t damaged, why I am in so much pain?” “I don’t even look sick.” “When is this disease going to do its worst?” “Why do I feel fine one day, and next day I can’t even function?”
The longer I live with this condition, I can anticipate on the onset of a flare up. I know when to take it easy and not to overdo it. I know what stress turns into for me. I know with that with each passing day, it gets harder to hide my condition from my family, friends, co-workers and employers. I can be positive about my condition and my life when I am not having a flare up, but come a flare up, I am an emotional basket case.
I am currently following a combination course of treatment of Sulfasalazine and Hydroxychloroquine and I have hope. However, I am not sure whether they will be a cure for RA in my lifetime, but I have faith in my doctors and my treatments and all I can do is rely on my faith and prayer to live with the disease the best that I can. I am not only in this as there are millions of RA patients out there. I will talk about inflammation and improvement in later posts.