Sometimes, having a chronic illness like RA can be bothersome in ways you never even imagined. It can cramp your fashion style, halt your dating life or create embarrassing situations you never before anticipated. . .
For instance, the other week, I was invited to a lovely dinner event thrown by HealthCentral. I was thrilled to be able to go and was looking forward to a fun night out in Washington D.C. Moreover, I was excited to hear the guest speaker, Sam Kass, talk at the event.
As we got ready to listen to him speak, I diligently pulled my new blackberry out of my purse and turned it off to make sure it wouldn’t ring and disturb the conversation- something I hate more than anything after years of going to see dance and theater performances for my job. I took a seat up close so I could be sure to hear everything that was being said (what can I say, the straight-A student in me still persists). The talk began and was going swimmingly. I was happy as a clam listening to the intelligent, eloquent Mr. Kass speak, when suddenly, I heard an unfortunately familiar ringing noise coming from my purse.
Oh. God. It was Wednesday at 8 p.m. Which meant that the ringing noise filling the room was the alarm on my phone reminding me it was time to take my shot of enbrel! I had set the alarm reminder up after getting my new phone a few weeks earlier to help me remember to take my shot two nights a week. I knew I had turned my phone off, but the alarm was going off nevertheless. I snatched my phone and quickly hit the off button. Though a few people sent slightly annoyed looks my way, it was over very quickly, so I settled back into the talk feeling only slightly mortified. But I had a nagging feeling in my head that wouldn’t go away. I vaguely remembered that the alarm always pops up with the ‘snooze’ icon selected rather than the ‘dismiss’ icon, and I began to worry that I had not in fact turned off the alarm, but had hit snooze instead. I could feel my face start to get hot, and this time, it wasn’t from any fever caused by RA.
I hated to fiddle too much with the phone given that I was in the front row, but before I could even decide what to do, it went off again! This time, I quickly selected the ‘dismiss’ option and turned my phone completely off again, sinking down lower into my seat and wishing the floor might swallow me up. I got a few more dirty looks, but the talk continued. I felt beyond embarrassed that I had just broken one of the cardinal rules of public etiquette, but part of me wanted to blurt out to everyone that it wasn’t some stupid phone call, it was my alarm for my medications! This was a gathering of professionals working in the health field, after all, so that should buy me some empathy, right?
I tried to relax and get back into the discussion, but I felt a little miserable. Sam Kass probably thought that girl in the front row was a total jerk. And if he didn’t at that moment, then five minutes later when my cursed alarm went off inexplicably again, he most certainly must have. I grabbed my wayward phone and slinked quickly out of the room to figure out what the hell was going on. I had no idea why I couldn’t disarm the alarm. I still don’t know what happened since I’m positive I turned off the entire device twice! I guess the alarm really wanted to make sure I remembered to take my shot that night, but in that moment, I felt like the biggest jerk and wanted to disappear completely.
I left my phone with the restaurant hostess outside as I was terrified it might start beeping uncontrollably again. I tiptoed into the back of the room and stood unobtrusively out of sight to listen to the rest of the talk. In my head, I began to silently curse my stupid RA for finding yet another way to ruin a perfectly good evening. If I didn’t have RA, I wouldn’t have to take shots twice a week to keep it under control, and if I didn’t have to take shots twice a week, I wouldn’t need a reminder to help me remember to take them, ergo, my phone would not have gone off and made me feel like a social pariah.
I tried to tell myself it was OK and that this happens to everyone at some point regardless of their best intentions, but I still felt slightly miserable and chastened for the rest of the evening. I didn’t have the guts to apologize and say good-bye to Mr. Kass when it was time for me to catch my train either. Instead, I headed out into the night, wishing once more that I didn’t have this stupid disease constantly interrupting my otherwise fine life.
Sara Nash is the author of the blog The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Published On: May 05, 2010