Rheumatoid Arthritis Breaks Your Heart

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You can file this under straight talk on Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I used to say, “Rheumatoid Arthritis is not in your head; it’s everywhere else.”  Then I realized that for some of us, it does get to the head. Specifically, RA gets to the jaw joints and the eyes. So technically, my Rheumatoid Arthritis is in my head.

So, I started to say it like this: RA is not in your mind; it’s everywhere else. But, lately I think I have changed my opinion on that, too. Rheumatoid Arthritis might actually change the way we think. Remember my very first post, RA can make you patient?

But perhaps it does not stop there. Rheumatoid Arthritis can also break your heart. My heart is broken by what I hear and read from other RA-ers who either post their own blogs or write private messages to me.

I have heard the ache of women who want to have children but live on medication which prevents that. Countless young ladies have told of their distress over aging much more quickly than they had planned. There are troubles with bosses who don’t understand and long-planned careers that have washed down the drain, courtesy RA. Of course there are the myriad beloved activities we are forced to curtail.

But the most heartbreaking tale that I hear is about family members who do not understand how Rheumatoid Arthritis changes the rules of the game. Women tell me they are accused of having “grown a lazy bone.” Men are distressed because their families cannot accept a lowered physical output with childcare or chores.

That is the dismay of living with an invisible illness. Pain is invisible. Stiffness and muscle weakness is invisible. One man wrote that his wife could not be convinced that his pain is very bad at all. Numerous women have told me that their husbands criticize them for their lowered standards. Just today, I read a woman’s comment about her grown son complaining of how little she can do for him now.

My heart is especially heavy for one person who may actually be divorced because of becoming disabled. This disaster is, one man or woman at a time, as bad as any I have watched in the news. It is no different than watching hurricane victims lose their homes. The suffering is just as real. But the sympathy is not.

My heart has become as sore as my wrists and hips and knees…

More than once, I have heard it suggested that we could expand understanding of Rheumatoid Arthritis if we could only loan it out once in a while. If we could let our spouse borrow it for a day, would s/he “grow a sympathy bone”? I know it is said in jest (well, probably it is), but I think there is a nugget of truth there, too.

Could it be that living with Rheumatoid Arthritis does affect your heart? For so long, I was perplexed that RA seemed to affect the nicest people. Maybe it was the other way around all along: the long term suffering of Rheumatoid Arthritis breaks our hearts. It makes us into more compassionate people.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 at 6:06 pm and is filed under Reality Check. 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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