Chronic arthritis.....a disease characterized by pain, limitation, and loss.....a disease which impacts a person physically, emotionally, and socially.
Much has been written about the physical impact of chronic arthritis and resulting loss of ability. The emotional impact has even been analyzed. Denial, anger, fear, and feelings of hopelessness are among the emotions which can accumulate and implode within the chronic arthritis sufferer. Add to the mix friends and family who do not understand the emotional turmoil and the result can be increasing levels of social isolation. Consider the following scenarios:
*A friend asks you to go to the shopping mall for a day of shopping. The friend does not realize that the pain from your arthritis will force the shopping trip to end prematurely.
*You are invited to a party but you know the fatigue from your arthritis will make it necessary to end the evening early.
*At the party there will be alcoholic beverages. The question, "Why aren't you drinking?", will flow like the drinks, leaving you to feel singled-out.
*You want to see the hottest movie in the theaters, but it is very difficult to get up from the seats after sitting for 2 or 3 hours.
*At your family reunion, activities such as softball and volleyball are planned. As everyone else digs in for the competition, you are sidelined.
*You plan a trip with friends or family but the sightseeing schedule will leave you way behind.
*A new friend invites you over for dinner but you are apprehensive because you are unfamiliar with the friends home and you fear the number of steps and furniture that might challenge you.
*You would like to invite people to your home but feel your housekeeping has been sub-par and it discourages you.
*After taking the children to the amusement park, you find the rides are inaccessible for you. This leaves you in a "waiting mode" all day rather than a "sharing mode".
*You can no longer continue to work. Leaving your job causes you to lose the social interaction you enjoyed with co-workers.
*The financial loss caused by expensive medical care depletes the allotment for entertainment.
*Going out in public armed with canes, wheelchairs, and handicap parking placards provokes stares and gawking.
Do any of these situations seem familiar? This is a short list of difficulties which can confront people with chronic arthritis. Obviously the length of time you have had arthritis and the severity of your condition make the cycle between physical, emotional, and social impact even more complicated. It is apparent that these situations lead to feelings of guilt and uneasiness. As you experience more and more uncomfortable moments, it is human nature to want to shield yourself. Avoiding social interaction becomes a choice, and the result of that choice is isolation.
Choosing isolation over social interaction means you can avoid feelings of guilt over holding others back. It means you can avoid feeling that you have failed to meet other peoples expectations of you. It means you won't have to ask for help or you won't have to feel "different".
Think about it for a moment though. Doesn't isolation just enhance other bad feelings such as low self-esteem, depression, and unworthiness? If you succumb to a world of isolation, doesn't it mean that arthritis is controlling you rather than you controlling your arthritis?
Isn't it more satisfying to work to make people understand what life is like for you within your boundaries of limited ability? Isn't it better for you to learn to live within your boundaries and not continually strive to attain other peoples level of normalcy? Isn't it better to focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do? Please take your answers to these questions to the bulletin board and share your experiences and insight.