Recently I was asked by a fellow parent at my son’s school, “What did you do to yourself?” He was addressing my limp. I don’t limp every day. It comes and goes depending on a myriad of variables. Sometimes it’s my feet, or my knee, or my ankle, there is no telling which body part is going to “act up” or when. I have been asked this question so many times you would think that I would have a standard response, but I don’t. Sometimes I am so focused on trying to get where I need to be in the least amount of pain that the question takes me by surprise.
Many times I have taken the time to explain that I have rheumatoid arthritis and frequently the response is “Oh my grandmother (aunt, mother, father, grandfather, fill in your choice of family member) has that.” And what they are usually referring to is Osteoarthritis which is not the same. In the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, I felt the need to clarify this to whomever was posing the question. This only served to frustrate me when most people just don’t get it and aren’t that interested in a medical discussion.
Sometime when I am in a hurry and really don’t feel like getting into an in depth discussion of my medical history, I will come back with a quick reply of “Oh that, I just twisted my ankle on the way out the door.” People usually nod in understanding and go about their business. I wonder afterward am I doing myself an disservice by dismissing the symptoms of this disease to avoid an uncomfortable discussion or the look of pity from some.
There have been times when I have been asked to volunteer for some event or another that I physically would not be able to handle. When I explain that I can’t because I have RA and standing all day (or whatever the task is) is not something I can physically do, I have been greeted with a look of doubt, as if to say, “Well, you look fine to me…”.
Unless I limp or try to give someone a thumbs up, my disease is invisible to the outside world. I don’t think of myself as disable, or courageous, or a warrior battling the arthritis demon. I try to take each day as it comes and handle as best I can the challenges that each day bring just like everyone else with this disease.
So the question remains; how do you handle the stares, the looks of concern, or just the questions? How do you deal with people who don’t understand? Is there one easy answer? I would love to hear how you respond to these issues.