It was lunch time. My co-worker and I grabbed a couple of juice drinks from the employee kitchen. The drinks weren’t cold, so he suggested getting some ice from the communal cooler which had been keeping an assortment of beverages chilled that morning. By the time we opened it, the cooler was almost emptied of its contents, save for the half-melted bits of ice which were floating in the cold water. As I examined it more closely, I noticed specks of dust and debris gently gliding through the water.
I was already fighting to endure a painful morning with JRA and I didn’t want to add the flu/cold to my list.
“I’m going to skip the ice,” I decided. “About fifty people put their hands in here already!”
My co-worker stared at me incredulously. “Oh gosh. Are you one of those obsessive germaphobe girls who needs everything to be clean? It’s just ice. A few germs aren’t going to hurt you.”
I laughed at his words and pondered what to tell him. I didn’t know him very well, but I wanted to tell him the truth – that if I got sick that day, it could take me at least a month to feel better again. That me getting sick could lead to days of not eating, of losing weight, flare-ups, hours of miserable pain, days glued to bed, sleepless nights, missed work, doctor visits and generally a super-crappy situation.
So I told him. I told him about my arthritis and I explained how my wonky immune system was not very effective at shielding me from germs. He didn’t laugh, or try to convince me that I had what his grandmother had. Instead, he listened and he said that he understood. Later that day he even came back to ask me some questions about my condition and how it affected me. We became closer after that.
And though we don’t work together anymore, we are still friends.
Speaking about arthritis when you’re a young person
Sometimes, it’s really hard to speak about our arthritis. Especially as young people, letting people know that we have arthritis can make us feel vulnerable. It opens the doors to potential negativity, loss of friends and misunderstanding. On the other hand, it can open doors to positivity, understanding, care and friendship too. In the story I related above, I am glad that I chose to let my co-worker know about my arthritis, as it strengthened our friendship. In a strange way, the reactions people have when you tell them about your condition reveals a lot about their characters. Surround yourself with supportive persons, not those who can’t accept what you have to deal with.
Having arthritis is nothing to be ashamed about – we are all dealing with our conditions as best as we can, and that is amazing to me. Telling people about your arthritis is, however, a personal decision and there are no rules to it – do what is best for you and what makes you feel comfortable. Some people are very open about it, while others are more private. It’s completely up to you to decide what feels right.
I loved this perspective from Sara Nash at HealthCentral.com, author of this article titled It’s My Prerogative: Who to Tell About My Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis. Check out the accompanying comic strip too.
Readers, how do you deal with speaking about arthritis? Do you openly tell people about your arthritis, or do you prefer to speak about it on a need-to-know basis? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!
Hope you are all well!