RA and Isolation – Don’t Get Sucked In
Having a chronic medical condition makes you see the world in a different way. Where you once saw hope, promise and endless possibilities, you may now see only rejection, disappointment and fear.
Over time, the negative worldview will make you wonder why you even consider getting out of bed and heading out into the world. Why bother if the space beyond your door is filled with undesirable elements?
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often find themselves in this situation. When your body hurts, simple tasks like driving to the store to pick up a loaf of bread become arduous battles. Getting up, getting dressed, bending over to put on your shoes are all things others take for granted. For you, these monumental tasks diminish your physical and emotional energies. All of this happens before you even leave the house.
Use caution, though. If you give into RA now, it will take hold in your decision making. Little by little, RA will convince you that leaving is too hard and staying put is the only good choice. You will miss doctors appointments, family gatherings and events with your friends.
Before you know it, you will close yourself off and become a prisoner inside your own home.
This scenario may seem extreme, but is actually quite common. People often refer to their “comfort zone.” This comfort in new and changing settings is a very fluid component to your life. It is constantly expanding or contracting based on what you have been doing.
If you have been avoiding people, places and things, it shrinks. If you have been going places and engaging in meaningful activities, it inflates. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.
Triggers of Isolation
We’ve looked at how RA persuades you into believing that you are better off staying at home rather than leaving, but there is more happening behind the scenes. People with RA find themselves at a higher risk of depression and anxiety than the typical person because there is added stress and pain from the disease. The added negatives influence your thinking to be hopeless and pessimistic, creating the perfect environment for depression and anxiety to grow.
Both depression and anxiety only care about getting bigger and stronger within you. They take hold by distorting your thoughts and behaviors. They tell you that your best efforts will only lead to more pain and your notions of positivity are faulty and illogical.
People with RA often begin to create tests or challenges for people in their lives. They may go days or weeks without contacting loved ones to see if those people reach out to them. When they do not, the person with RA will feel like no one cares. This is an example of the flawed, over-generalized thinking common with depression and anxiety.
From here, many factors make you think that you would be better off staying in the home including the irrational thoughts that people don’t care about you, they don’t understand your situation, the notion that your life will not improve by leaving and the overriding consistency of RA-related pain. Being withdrawn turns into isolation when you are cut off from the people, places and things in life that bring you joy.
Next page: fighting isolation.