What to Do If You're Feeling Down About RA
Coping strategies for rheumatoid arthritis from someone who’s been there
3. Stay ahead of pain. “Don’t feel you’re stuck with the pain. Controlling it can help you cope better emotionally,” notes Kelly, who takes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories as needed. Ask your doctor about the best treatment option for you.
Expert tip: If your meds aren’t helping, ask your doctor if changing the dosage or timing might work, suggests rheumatologist Elinor Mody, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. For example, taking your medication as soon as you wake up might lessen pain later in the day. Likewise, taking certain anti-inflammatories (such as prednisone) at night could interfere with restful sleep, which is crucial to controlling pain.
4. Learn all you can. Information is your greatest ally to help educate and empower others who have the autoimmune disease, says Kelly, who founded RAWarrior.com and the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation (Rheum4Us.org). “So many people don’t realize that RA is not just arthritis—it’s not just your joints. It can affect the eyes, heart, lungs—the whole body.” In fact, her foundation launched a campaign to promote “Rheumatoid Disease Awareness” to distinguish it from other types of arthritis.
Expert tip: Help your family become educated, too, says Dr. Feldman. “Many times a patient’s family doesn’t realize how sick their family member is because their joints are not always swollen. There’s more than the eye can see with this disease.” She suggests bringing family members to an appointment (alert the office ahead of time) so they can be involved in your care.
5. Cultivate a fighting spirit. “Keep fighting to get the care you need,” stresses Kelly, who remains hopeful about the new RA medication she recently started. “It takes courage to fight RA. I always tell people to never, ever give up.”
6. Become understanding. Find support online or in person, says Kelly, who works with Arthritis Introspective, a group that connects RA patients with community programs. No local RA group? “Find someone through your doctor’s office,” she suggests. “If you can find just one person to meet for coffee, that’s a good start.” Or take advantage of social media: “I know two women in Oregon who met and wanted to find others with RA in their area. They started a Facebook page and now know about 20 other women.”