Helping Others While Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cathy Health Guide
  • Rheumatoid arthritis has been good for me.  Sure, it has brought a lot of painful times and changed my life in numerous ways, but it has also given me many wonderful lessons that I appreciate each day.  One of the greatest lessons I have learned from rheumatoid arthritis is just how wonderful it feels when people help me.  At first I resisted.  It felt like I was giving up on myself if I let others help me.  However, over time I have discovered that by letting people that love me help me, they feel good.  They feel good knowing that they are doing whatever they can to help reduce the pain I may be experiencing.  I finally decided that helping others to feel good isn't a bad thing, so why resist?

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    This lesson has transferred to me wanting to help others when I can.  I am fortunate to work a part-time job that if it didn't pay me, I would do it for free.  I love it that much.  I always go to work whether I am in a flare or not because I know that during the time I am at work, I will forget my pain and enjoy the company of my students.  I teach adult ESL (English as a Second Language). When I go to work, I focus on the needs of my students.  I listen to their stories.  I let my mind leave the pain of my own body and instead focus on the needs of others for a short time.  When class is over, each student thanks me for the four hours I spent with them.  I feel good.


    After the students are gone, my rheumatoid arthritis pain always hits me hard.  It is almost like it wants to remind me that even though I took a little break from focusing on it, it is still there.  That's okay.  I don't really mind because for four hours I get to take a small break from the flare being the focus and instead focus on other people and their needs.  It feels wonderful.


    Besides teaching which requires I leave my house, I have found that I have gifts in many other areas that allow me to help others while staying home.  I email with moms that are new to homeschooling.  Through my own experiences with homeschooling, I can ease many of their fears by sharing my experiences through email.  I can plan activities for my homeschooling group that allow fun for many families.  I can email with fellow rheumatoid arthritis folks and let them know I am thinking about them.  I can help my children with their many questions about life.  I can listen to my husband when he gets home from work and help him release some of the stress of the day.   


    Helping others makes us feel good.  When we are flaring, people want to help us and when we are flaring I think it is important to also help others.  It not only takes our mind away from the pain, but also reminds us that we have so much to give.  Rheumatoid arthritis may be changing the direction of our lives, but it isn't changing the gifts we have to give others. 


    How do you help others when flaring or not flaring?


    You may also want to read this post on volunteering:

Published On: May 23, 2011