“I’m 28. WAAAYYY too young for arthritis. This is something old people have to worry about.”
“This can’t happen to me, I’m still active and have BIG PLANS for my future.”
“Doctor. You have to be joking.”
“This isn’t funny anymore. Seriously…how do you make this go away?”
Those and tons of other questions stormed through my mind once I was diagnosed with arthritis. I still repeat the last one from time to time.
There’s the initial shock of being diagnosed with arthritis. Thinking that you’re too young and healthy for something like this to happen. Then, slowly, it’s the realization that you have no idea what to expect now that you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis. So you take to Google, maybe Reddit, Inspire.com or one of the other sites that talk about arthritis, to find out everything you can about that lies ahead. You’ll read a lot about so called treatments and cure, providing false hope. And even though it is the internet, you’ve find a lot of helpful people who are in your shoes that are more than happy to offer up some advice or a few kind words.
There’s a lot to digest and you’ll probably feel overwhelmed at times. Eventually you’ll start seeing the same ideas over and over and you’ll begin to have a better grip on your arthritis. I found a lot of helpful information out there, but a few pieces were missing, so here are a few additional things to expect when you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis that you might not come across or even think about.
It can get expensive
There are doctor appointments. Medication(s). Physical therapy appointments. Changes in diet. Sure, depending on what insurance coverage you have, some of the medical costs can be mitigated. But arthritis can touch just about every aspect of your life and at some point you’ll have to make adjustments in your lifestyle, so that can add up if you don’t anticipate those expenses.
It’s an emotional roller coaster
HOLY CRAP! This was something that was never brought up by my doctor, or anyone else really, in the early stages of my diagnosis. I lived an active lifestyle – basketball, working out, I loved walking everywhere, and backpacking. And that was either taken away or greatly reduced as my ankle arthritis got worse over a few short months. I went from playing basketball with my friends in summer leaguers to needing a walking boot to get around relatively pain free. That transition SUCKED.
Maybe you like swimming, taking your dog for a walk, or writing. If you have arthritis that affects a weight bearing joint, then you’ll need to be prepared to make lifestyle adjustments. Even simply dealing with sore and achy joints on a daily basis can be rough and can wear on you. There are good days and bad days and to manage your arthritis, learning to navigate this ride is very important.
This topic alone deserves its own post, probably a lengthy one, which I hope to get to soon.
People will not understand your pain
Arthritis is called an invisible illness because no one can see that you’re actually hurt. They think that if you don’t look hurt – then you must be fine!
“Suck it up!” They say. Because if they can’t see it, like a cast, they assume it’s “not that bad” or “you’re just a wimp, it’ll pass.” This misunderstanding can also put a strain on relationships and in the workplace.
It’s a long road
There’s no definitive cure coming up in the next few years (hopefully after that!), so expect that dealing with your arthritis will be a lifelong journey. It’ll be a long and bumpy road. But, there are stretches when you’ll feel great and you can be active and get back to some of the activities you use to do. Learning to properly manage and cope with your arthritis doesn’t happen in a few short weeks or months. Something always happens to pop-up that you were not expecting. So as long as you remember to take the long view, that’ll be a huge help.
I’m going to end on 2 positive points. It’s not all bad…really.
You’ll find a TON of people out there who share your pain
From people who are way too young to people in their 60s, 70s, and up. Whether it’s through a friend, family member, or even an online support group, you’ll be able to find someone who’s been there and they can help you navigate your life with arthritis. Be proactive and ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Learning to appreciate new activities
Sure, some, or many, of the activities you use to do might not be doable. But now you have the chance to find something new. I can’t play basketball. Haven’t for 9 years now. Departing from that was difficult, but I’ve learned new activities I like to do that have made living with my arthritis a little easier. Having someplace positive where you can channel your energy will be a big help in keeping a healthy mind and body.
There’s a lot to process when you’re first diagnosed with arthritis, as you learn more about it, and understand how it’ll affect your lifestyle. It is a difficult path, but not an impossible one. Knowing what to expect, or at least preparing yourself in anyway you feel comfortable doing, will only help you in managing it all.