Loving someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis
I Love a Rheuma
There are so many topics to write about when it comes to living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There are so many areas that I want to cover. I don’t want to provide information that you can easily find such as medication for RA or how to treat RA.We will leave that to the professionals. I want to provide something unique to us as warriors living with RA. Doctors don’t understand what we’re going through. They don’t understand what it’s like to live with what we have, they only know what their medical books tell them. The only thing they can really provide is medical advice for our arthritis care.
My writing is guided by what you thousands of RA warriors tell me affect you most. There are so many things that affect us! But as you all know, the only people that truly understand you, are your fellow sufferers. So when we’re having a bad day, we turn to our support groups. Aren’t they fantastic?! If you haven’t yet joined a support group (or 2, or 3), do it! You can join ours here. There can never be enough.
The Reach of Rheumas
This week though, I’ve been thinking of what is affected BY us. Often we are so caught up in our chronic pain, that we just can’t be in the head space to think of how it affects those around us. Is there a place for family and friends of those with RA to turn to? to learn about our chronic illness? Where do they go to find information about what they can do to help us with our chronic disease? Sure there are places they can go online to learn about arthritis but our type of arthritis is completely different and requires a different type of care. So this article is for those loving someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I Love Someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis
As some of you may have noticed this week, I started up a support group uniquely for family and friends of those living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. You can share this around so those who love you can join here.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been told ‘My husband doesn t understand Rheumatoid Arthritis!’ Too many to count but this article isn’t about that. If you are finding it difficult to explain Rheumatoid Arthritis to your loved ones, then you need to read here.
If you are in the category of:
- My wife isn’t doing as much as she used to, is this our future?
- best friend has RA, what can I do to help?
- my boyfriend has rheumatoid arthritis, what does this mean?
- daughter in law has RA, will this affect my grandchildren?
- Can I marry a girl with rheumatoid arthritis?
- my husband has rheumatoid arthritis, he is struggling mentally. What do I do?
then this article is for you! Loving someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis has it’s unique set of challenges so I’ve come up with some helpful ideas for you.
Rheumatoid arthritis and relationships are tricky but it is certainly doable and can be navigated. I liken it to dating someone with a past. If you are open in your communication and accept that part of them, then you will be ok.
I want to acknowledge that being married to someone with rheumatoid arthritis can’t be easy. I have an amazing partner. Yes, I do. I probably don’t give him enough credit for what he does. He puts up with a lot and his life has changed because of my health. My rheumatoid arthritis pain has certainly placed restrictions on what I can do, but it has also impacted on what he can do too. But this has not soured our relationship, it is still largely the same. I know that I haven’t completely changed. I’m still the same on the inside. Ok, I might whine a bit more but that is completely understandable. I am in chronic pain every day so I make no apologies for that.
Rheumas change people
I think the hardest part in loving someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis is transitioning to something different. For those that have been in their relationship a long time, this is difficult. People get stuck in patterns, routines and roles. A Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis will invariably change the dynamics. You may be asked or even required to do things you never used to do. You may even be doing much more or most of what needs to be done now. But remember, no-one asked to get Rheumatoid Arthritis. Those with RA would do anything to return to normal life. Adjusting to change will take time but navigate it together openly. Try not to focus on what can’t be done anymore, find ways to modify and/or replace.
The same goes for those wondering about marrying someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis. You can still have a fulfilling and successful marriage. It will take work, compromise, good communication and understanding but isn’t that what marriage is all about?
Listening to Rheumas
The best way to be supportive when you are loving someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis is just to listen. Listening and communication is the foundation of successfully managing the effects of RA on your relationship.
When I first told my family and friends about my RA diagnosis, it came as a real shock to them. Like many of you, I had hidden my pain. Many offered me sympathy and many more offered me advice. But not many did what I really wanted them to do, which is to check in with me regularly and to stick around. The reason why they didn’t do this is simple: I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask because I had never liked asking but mainly because I was so caught up in my pain, that I physically couldn’t. If I could, I would’ve asked for someone to pick up my kids from school, to cook me a meal, to sit with me while I cried or just to talk to me.
What I would ask for may be very different from what your loved one with RA would ask for. My advice to you, if you want to help your loved one, ask them a specific question such as ‘What is one thing I can do for you tomorrow?’
It’s not you, it’s me
One of the challenging things regarding friendships for those with RA is finding the energy. The mental energy and the physical energy. Those that follow me will often hear me say that having RA is like being a voodoo doll. You simply just do not know when and how it’s going to hit you. Therefore keeping a social calendar is hard. So if your friend or loved one cancels on you at the last minute, don’t take it personally. Perhaps you can offer to modify the date or reschedule. However, do try to check in on them later. But remember, it’s not you.
Helping the Rheuma
There are many ways to help your loved one. Like I said previously, it will be dependent on the person. Sometimes, they won’t even be able to tell you what they want or how you can help. But here are some ideas for what you can do:
- Send them some anti-inflammatory or easy to cook recipes.
- Offer to go for a short walk
- Sit and watch something together.
- Post an uplifting quote on their Facebook wall.
- Drop off a meal
- Get them a small gift. I have some great gift ideas here.
- Offer to do their hair, makeup or even a shave!
- Accompany them to an appointment.
Rheumatoid Arthritis does not disqualify you as dating material. My partner will tell you there are still many benefits of dating me! Unfortunately there are no rheumatoid arthritis dating sites that I know of but you can certainly still look for love.
A common question I get asked is ‘do I have to reveal that I have a chronic illness?’ This is entirely up to you. It may sound cliche but those who are worthy will see past your diagnosis.
Famous last words
There is a great quote I found which says:
Relationships don’t last because of the good times;Anmol Andore
they last because the hard times were handled with love and care.
That pretty sums it up. When you are loving someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the most important thing you can do is handle them with love and care. Rheumatoid Arthritis is truly a dark place to be. Your loved one is grieving the life and body they once had. Their body is failing them and this takes a huge toll on their mental health too. It’s hard to watch someone we love suffer but the most powerful act we can do, is to be present. Don’t give up on them. Just be there.
If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, join our private support group here.
If you love someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis, there is a new and unique group for you to join here.