Lipstick & Luck: Feeling Fabulous with Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease

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If we try, will we feel fabulous with Rheumatoid Arthritis?

bathFeeling and looking fabulous with RA sells well, but how much can lipstick help? Most people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis have felt the sting of someone suggesting we don’t need to be as sick if we would only try _____. Hearing this can seem harsh, especially to those whom medications don’t help much. We feel like we’re doing all we can.

Many of us have some family or doctors who think RA is an exaggeration or friends and neighbors who don’t help much. It can sting to be compared to another person living with RA. How To Look And Feel Beautiful With Autoimmune Disease is a typical example of how RA is portrayed.

“You could feel fabulous today and horrible tomorrow,” YouBeauty reader Jane says about RA. When a bad day strikes, she’ll stay in bed. But most of the time, she puts her best face forward, even if she’s swollen and in pain. I make a point of looking my the best,” she says. “I always feel better when I put on my red lipstick.” (Grammar error in original.)

It’s luck, not lipstick

I’m glad Jane has days when she feels fabulous, but the article implies that’s a common experience. I know of a few patients who can still wear high heels – and others who daily use wheelchairs or crutches – and every level in between. This causes a lot of confusion and ridiculous assertions. Even some doctors say that biologics work on everyone or that an antidepressant works just as well. People with such views push books, videos, or vitamins every day.

Integrative Health Expert Jim Nicolai, M.D. agrees — you could lift your spirits with something as small as finding a really good set of cosmetics. “If there’s something you feel really good about and it makes you feel good, I promote it as a health strategy,” Dr. Nicolai says about working with patients at the Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Wellness Program at the Miraval Spa in Tuscon, Arizona.

Remission or mild RA that flares periodically is the reality of some. But it’s not lipstick that makes it so – it’s most likely genetics. I know many people with severe RA and a good attitude – it’s not their fault. Lipstick is great; it’s just not much of a “health strategy” for a serious illness like RA. These articles might confuse people that mental strategies can fight RA: “Even on the ugly days, there are ways to try syncing your body and mind, so you start feeling as good as you look.”

3 Reasons to be wary of fabulous articles

For Jane: “when a bad day strikes, she’ll stay in bed.” But one can’t spend every day in bed; what if the bad days just continue? What if someone is physically incapable of applying makeup? Who can judge what is another person’s “best”? The article mentioned that “some people experience chronic, debilitating symptoms,” but that’s followed by a long article about those who “have the occasional flareup.”

  1. We mustn’t ignore the fact that Rheumatoid disease is not the same in every patient or in the same patient over time.
  2. We can’t assume an emotional cause. While many RA patients do get depressed, the majority do not have emotional problems. Moreover, the destructive results of the disease are not attitude related.
  3. I don’t think we should ever imply that anything about RA symptoms is a lifestyle choice.

Postblog: In addition to cosmetics, this article promoted meditation, attitude, and exercise as methods to improve RA – all good things. I realize people grow tired of feeling that they or their illness are invisible so they may respond enthusiastically to any article about it. However, I worry that it can do more harm than good to present lipstick as a “health strategy.” Most RA patients I know fight RA with plenty of grace and little complaining. Let’s be sure never to imply that their symptoms are their own fault or that they could feel better if they just tried harder.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 6:00 am and is filed under RA Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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