Rheumatoid Arthritis and Relationships

Vanessa Collins Health Guide

    When you first hear the works, "You have RA", or any chronic, painful condition, it is a shock. Even though you know something is wrong, even if you think you might have RA, hearing the words come floating out of a doctors mouth raises more questions than it answers. It is then you realize that you are on a journey, and you are not quite sure where you will end up.


    What is this going to mean to me? Will I ever feel well again? Will my family, friends and coworkers understand, or will they abandon me?


    The unknown reaction of my friends and family is what most concerned me. I didn't want to be alone. I wanted, and felt I needed, all the support I could muster.

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    Looking well and being sick can be a Catch 22. We look well, so that enables us to share our health concerns with only the people we trust; however, looking well and being sick is its own burden.


    Since RA is an unpredictable disease, especially when it is not under control, we can't always make plans in advance. It is difficult for friends and family to understand that we can't assure them we will be somewhere at a certain time to celebrate with them. If we don't open up and let them know what is going on, they may soon begin to think we just aren't interested in their lives anymore.


    On the other hand, some friends, and even family members, can fade out of our lives because they can't be bothered with the realities of our illness. Thinking of this always makes me visualize the sun setting slowly over the ocean. It is there, and then it is going, going, gone. The sun does reappear the next morning, but some friends and family members may not. That is a tough reality, but one that must be expected. I don't dwell on these instances of "abandonment". I move on, and concentrate my energy and direct my joy toward those friends and family that are still here. They are on my side, and ready to help me fight to get my life back. They are the "keepers".


    I am happy to share that many of my relationships have become more meaningful on this journey. I have a few close friends and they do seem to understand. Even though they cannot totally relate to my health issues, they are ready to help and offer support whenever needed. That is a very big blessing in my life.


    The biggest blessing in my life is my husband. I have always loved him, but I believe I love him more each day now. He has demonstrated a level of caring that I wasn't sure any man could ever demonstrate. Sorry guys! You know what I mean, though. A lot of men don't like to talk about feelings. They are "fixers", not "talkers". My husband has developed great listening skills, and he is openly compassionate. I also see a deeper level of respect for me in my husband's eyes. There is a poignant revelation of love that sweeps over me every time I see that respect mirrored in his baby blues.


    My doctors' attitudes and demeanors have changed dramatically in the last few months. I barely recognize them. They aren't in a hurry to rush on to the next patient anymore. That is comforting, and disconcerting at the same time. I am happy to have their attention, but I don't want to be so ill that I need too much of their time!


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    I must say that most coworkers and some family may not be as emotionally invested in us as we might like. That is true in my case, but may not be true in your life. That is okay, though. I have a limited amount of time and energy these days. I don't want to waste it on shallow relationships.


    We are all on a journey, and even though we don't know what is going to happen along the way, we do know that we have some people in our camp who will not abandon us. They love us and they are partners of sorts in our struggle to maintain our health.


    Being ill is not fun, and I would choose not to be ill if I could. I cannot do that, so I chose to open my eyes. What I saw was a new life adventure for me. The good relationships I have with friends, family, coworkers and, of course, my husband have deepened. I have a new level of understanding with these people, and the comfort and joy we share together is the best medicine in the world for me. They are my angels. I hope you all have some angels in your lives.

Published On: May 24, 2011