If you feel that your friends and family don’t understand how arthritis really affects you, you’re not alone. Not only are arthritis symptoms often invisible, but they can come and go. Some days, you may feel great and energetic; other days, you might be too tired or sore to be active. People who don’t have a chronic condition may not get how different your experience can be from one day to the next, says rheumatologist J. Michael Finley, DO, an associate professor of internal medicine at Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, California.
Use these tips to help friends and family understand what you’re dealing with – and possibly improve your relationships.
Let a pro do the talking.
“Consider bringing your spouse or other close family members to one of your doctor’s visits,” says Finley. “Giving them a chance to listen to your doctor discuss your symptoms and treatment plan helps make it clear that your arthritis is real and serious.”
Keep it simple.
Explain how you’re feeling as clearly and as directly as possible. Use a pain scale from one to 10, with one being little or no pain and 10 being excruciating pain. Assigning a number to your current state helps others understand what you’re going through.
Speak up about your needs.
Often, it’s not what people say, but what they don’t say or do that hurts. Even those closest to you can’t read your mind, so be specific about what you need. For example, you might say, “I need to nap to make it through the rest of the afternoon,” or “I can’t open that. Can you help?”
Know that sharing isn’t asking for sympathy.
You may be reluctant to open up because you don’t want to sound as though you want pity, but don’t let that stop you. Who you tell and how much you disclose is up to you but sharing your vulnerabilities can bring you closer to the people you trust and care about.
Not sure how to tell someone about arthritis? Go to arthritis.org/ATtellingpeople.
Author: Camille Noe Pagan
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