Yes, life has ups and downs, but when you add a chronic pain condition to the mix, the ups and downs are like a never ending rollercoaster of pain and emotions. Those ups and downs make living with RA difficult and the lack of understanding among family, friends, co-workers and strangers about those ups and downs is a bitter pill to swallow for those suffering. You can explain the physical aspects of RA to people – the stiffness, the swelling, redness, pain, etc., but it is impossible to define the obstacles that sufferers incur on a daily basis. It is an emotional battle that you fight everyday.
Think about the kind of advice has each of us been offered (sometimes unsolicited) – pace yourself, manage your condition, surround yourself with emotional support and don’t let the disease define or change you. The only thing that can prepare you or guide you through all the rollercoaster of symptoms and emotional setbacks is experience.
There are days where the pain is under control, you feel rested, productive and in charge of your life and your body. Then, there are the other days when you are in pain, you are tired, you cannot focus and get anything done, and your disease controls you. All of us who suffer from chronic pain know they can’t all be good days, but it would be nice to have more good days than bad ones. You can do all the right things – eat right, take your medications, rest, and the disease still takes over. That is just a part of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis, any autoimmune disease, invisible condition, or chronic pain condition.
You can plan and you can plan things well ahead of time, and when the time comes, the disease takes over. Your symptoms flare up or you are just too tired to carry out your plans. This happens from time to time. It is part of living with a chronic condition. All you can do is save things, like chores, for the days when you are feeling better. Unfortunately, you cannot never predict how many good days you will have and when they will show up, and if you overwork yourself, your good days don’t last.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is unpredictable. There is not much you can do except realize that RA has ups and downs. There are days where your symptoms flare up, where your energy runs out and your emotions are all over the place. You adjust and adapt to the moments that the disease brings you down. At some time, you accept that RA is a part of your life. It does not define you as a person, but quite often, it defines your life. The best you can is be flexible in order to live with RA. The disease is a reality and flexibility a survival technique.