What Happens After Diagnosis
Accepting a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is no easy task, particularly if you have enjoyed a very healthy and active life prior to hearing the news.
For some people, getting the diagnosis might actually be a relief after years of mystery symptoms and baffled doctors. To others, it might feel like a devastating blow. Remember, no two cases of RA are the same, so it is important to take that into account when accepting the disease.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
No two people with RA are the same, therefore comparing yourself to someone else with the disease can either leave you frustrated that you can’t perform at the same level they can, or scare you into thinking you’re going to be completely disabled for life. The degree in which RA affects people runs the gamut, from people who barely seem to struggle with symptoms and are largely able to carry on with life, to those whose lives have changed drastically since before their diagnosis.
Instead of looking at what someone else with RA is doing, focus instead on yourself and managing your symptoms. Having RA may mean that you may have to give up certain things you used to love, but you also may be able to work with your symptoms to do the same things with the aid of medication or at an alternative pace. Your journey is yours and yours alone.
Allow Space to Be Angry and Grieve
Anger and grief upon being diagnosed is totally normal. However, it may not come on all at once. Just like coping with the death of a loved one, each person handles the acceptance of their disease in their own way. You may feel fine after being diagnosed, only to find yourself six months later angry and frustrated at your disease. Be patient with yourself and ask for others to do the same.
In order to deal with your anger and grief, keep a journal or diary where you can safely write down your feelings and frustrations. It also helps tremendously to have a friend to speak to, even if the person doesn’t know what it is like to have RA first hand.
One very helpful exercise in dealing with anger and grief, particularly over the things you can no longer do, is to write down the things you can still do or talents unexplored. Perhaps you have a talent for painting or writing you never got to develop due to focusing on other areas in your life.
Your life may not go according to the way you mapped it out now that you have RA, but give yourself space and time to grow in this new direction. Although it may be difficult, list all of the ways that RA may be an opportunity for you to try new things instead of limiting you.
Seek Out Friends with RA
Keeping in mind that each case of RA is different, they all share similarities. As such, it is important to develop not only a network of family and friends who support you no matter what, but also of others who have RA.
Next page: should you seek counseling after your RA diagnosis?