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Anxiety, self-doubt and me

EDITORIAL BOARD
Co-created with Dr. John Esdaile (Professor of Medicine, University of British Columbia) and Dawn Richards (Vice President, Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance)

Overcoming the emotional burden of life with RA – it begins with you.

Yes, I admit it. I recently went to see a psychologist, because the physical symptoms of my RA were just the tip of the iceberg. A darker, mental fog was running in parallel with all of my painful physical symptoms, primed, ready to engulf me, at will.

The repetition of “I’m not good enough” and “I can’t succeed” (translation “I will fail”) in my head became self-fulfilling prophecies. They were constantly present in my mind, ready to pounce. Self-doubt is an accomplished thief. It knows you inside and out and strikes when you are at your most vulnerable. Sometimes it will taunt you with a pebble-sized uncertainty. Other times, with a huge boulder of hesitation, trying to fracture your self-image - which holds such a significant power over your own happiness and joy. People living with RA face both powerful and debilitating physical and emotional challenges every single day, including:1-3

People living with RA face both powerful and debilitating physical and emotional challenges single day, including:1,2,3

Experiencing a lack of control – such as limitations at work and loss of independence to go about their daily life as they please.1,2

Feeling excluded or limited from the social activities they can take part in –this may be due to the accessibility of certain locations, the burden of an unpredictable condition or the ever-present feeling of fatigue.1,2

Stigma and discrimination concerns –adding to other challenges, those with chronic illness, such as RA, are often treated unequally because of the stigma attached to their condition.3

Always remember to take care of yourself first. Make sure you rest when you’re feeling exhausted. Exhaustion can be overwhelming and lead to added stress and anxiety. Be patient.

There is a better way. For me, this began when I sought professional help. Having the courage to be completely open and honest with a neutral person let me drop my defenses and explore my anxieties. This person was non-judgmental and interested only in listening to me, enabling me to address and overcome the negative feelings that I kept inside, which so often plagued my days. Together we identified achievable things I could do to help me conquer my anxiety head on.

I have discovered a few tips that have helped me counter self-doubt and boosted my confidence. They may help you too:

1 Stop comparing your accomplishments to your friends and colleagues. Remember that everyone is facing battles of their own and that your acquaintances' achievements are not a benchmark to grade your own success.

2 Try to worry less about what other people think of you. This may hold you back from doing something potentially huge for yourself.

3 Identify your greatest supporters and focus on those relationships. Sometimes all we need is a little reassurance and a good listener. Identify the friends, family members and peers who have always been there for you.

4 Take a break. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, or a circumstance you see as challenging, take some time away from it and focus on something totally different.

5 Always remember to take care of yourself first. Make sure you rest when you’re feeling exhausted. Exhaustion can be overwhelming and lead to added stress and anxiety. Be patient. Ask someone to help out with your chores, involve your partner, children and friends.

6 Find out as much as you can about RA to really help you feel more in control of it. Having more knowledge may remove the fear of the unknown, which in turn can help reduce the anxiety.

With the support of a healthcare professional and by incorporating these things into my daily life, I am well on the way to feeling in control of my RA, rather than letting my RA control me.

Reference:1. Ryan S. Psychological effects of living with rheumatoid arthritis. Nursing Standard2014;29(13):52-59.

Reference:2. Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance (CAPA). Inflammatory arthritis education series: Coping with your arthritis. Accessed May 3, 2018 at: http://www.arthritispatient.ca/files/4114/5185/4435/Coping_with_your_Arthritis_Final.pdf

Reference:3. Discrimination against people who live with arthritis « JointHealth™ monthly | changing arthritis [Internet]. Jointhealth.org. 2017 [cited 18 April 2017]. Available from: http://jointhealth.org/programs-jhmonthly-view.cfm?id=41.

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