Saturday, 26 October 2013

I've Never Met a Couch Potato with RA

Recently at a session of an Arthritis Society course called "Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis" I heard an amazing statement. The physiotherapist who led the session said that in 20 years of seeing RA patients she hadn't ever met a Couch Potato with RA and went on to say that many of us with rheumatoid disease are type A personalities.

Couch potato and an 'A' type RA hero

She was saying that the beliefs we grew up with, such as "if you feel sick don't give in to it" and "you can do anything you set your mind to" may need to be changed when you develop a chronic illness. Feelings that make you "soldier on" and "push yourself through the pain" may help you get ahead when you're healthy but once you are ill, you need to listen to your body and take good care of yourself so that your health does not get worse.

This extra care for yourself can make you feel guilty and lazy when your body calls for rest. This is when you call on your communications skills and ask for help and understanding. The course leader also suggested a strategy for coping with worry. You save it up all week and worry from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm every Wednesday night.

It's not easy to worry for an hour straight.

Another strategy for dealing with what you've lost is to do an assessment of your skills with the idea of finding which are transferable to the new self that you will have to create. The self which you reinvent based on your new reality can be very different from the old, but the bedrock is the same.

Here's a link to a book "Positive Coping With Health Conditions" which you can read online as HTML or download as a 42MB PDF. It helps you to learn more about living better. It's a long journey with changes and losses along your road. Remember, stress management is a life skill that you can learn.

One of the adjustments you can make is to put yourself in the center of your life.  Another is giving yourself permission to be good to yourself. Guilt and worry make that hard, but remember our course leader. "I never met a couch potato with RA."

*pictures copyright amckinnon


  1. Annette I think this lady is spot on, we are, many of us, type A personalities and how many times in group have we heard or said ourselves 'I feel guilty for not.....'. I know that I used to love nothing better than cleaning the entire house from top to bottom in a day!! Now it can take all day to do all of one room.
    I think giving yourself permission to rest and put your health first is one of the hardest adjustments to make & come to terms with when faced with chronic disease, I know I still struggle with 'not doing' after 20 years with RD.

  2. It really is difficult. You start out feeling so capable of doing what you want achieve, and you either don't get done or you pay the next day. The conference I went to yesterday was great but today I feel wrung out.
    These aren't shortcomings. You have to adapt to be able to cope. Lucky it is a skill you can learn.