Explaining complicated matters is bound to get bumpy. When you try to explain something like arthritis, since others can't "feel" what you feel, the impact is lost right from the start. You can tell someone what it feels like but unless they walk a mile in your shoes, so to speak, it's not the same.
There are certain expectations that go with explaining and learning about arthritis. Your friend or family member must want to learn and must be be attentive as you explain. They must give up the notion that they already fully understand -- because they don't. They must forget about the quick cures and infomercials they have heard about or seen that make them certain they know how to turn things around for you. They must forget about pain they have experienced -- it's just not the same.
Even the best conversations will only be able to boost understanding to a certain point. If only those who need to better understand the disease could have arthritis for a day. Imagine what they would learn just by having arthritis for a day. This wouldn't be like Queen for A Day. There would be no big prize at the end of the day. No washer-dryer won. No refrigerator. Just enlightenment.
Since you can't literally give someone arthritis for a day, the next best thing would be for the person to be your shadow for a day. If they were your shadow, they would be able to observe what it is like for you.
A Common Scenario
You wake after a night of disrupted sleep to morning stiffness. Your joints ache and you feel like the Tin Man. You don't really have time for morning stiffness because your day awaits you. If you don't get moving soon, you will be late for breakfast and last for work. Everything feels like a struggle -- getting ready for work, getting to work, and most of all -- work. Somehow, you remember to put on a happy face and try to do your job seamlessly.
Once you make it through the workday, you drag yourself back home and it feels like there are 10 pounds of potatoes saddled onto your back. Now it's time to start dinner, get some other household chores done, and have a little quality time with the kids. But what your painful joints are screaming for you to do is lay down, shut the bedroom door, and lock out the world. You grab some medication hoping for relief, sneak in a few minutes on the heating pad, stare up at your bedroom ceiling and wonder where you can get some relief -- the medication and heating pad aren't doing enough.
Time is up for resting -- now you're fighting against the clock to get dinner prepared. Someone calls in the meantime and wants to stop by but you decline -- you're in no mood to socialize. The kids have a game to get to anyway. In spite of arthritis, pain, and fatigue -- life goes on. You would love to attend the kid's game and cheer them on but all you can muster is the energy it takes to drive them there and drop them off. You feel like a bad parent and to appease yourself, you tell the kids you will make it up to them.
How do you make up for lost time though? Your pain has been unrelenting. Your energy drained. But you got through the day. It's almost time to go to bed so you can try for a restful night. Sleep doesn't come easy because of pain -- the same pain that intruded on your morning, made working difficult, kept you from some of your responsibilities, caused you to decline a social call, and allowed you to barely parent. We didn't even add lack of intimacy to the list -- but it's there.
If only. If only this were just for a day. But arthritis is for a lifetime.