Dear Ms. Meniscus,
I’m 30 years old with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed this year but haven’t felt well for some time. I’ve had to cut down to working part-time and I just can’t do what I used to do.
My question to you. I have this rage and anger over being ill that I just can’t seem to get past. I see my friends going out and leading normal lives and I get bitter when I think about how I can’t go out at night.
Hannah Stuck in the House
Experiencing rage and anger over a diagnosis is natural and understandable. Who among us would accept a diagnosis dispassionately, as if it were a mere inconvenience?
You’re thirty-years old and you haven’t felt well for some time. Receiving the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia confirmed that something was and is “wrong” and that this will be with you for some time. Madame is unaware of how long you were experiencing the symptoms, their intensity, frequency, and impact. Perhaps your journey to the diagnosis was a long and frustrating one. Your symptoms could have been erratic or complex, and the diagnosis difficult. This certainly would have caused you to feel frustrated and upset long before the diagnosis came, and at this point you may feel afraid (rightly so) that you’ll feel unwell forever. But as badly as you feel, Madame asks you to keep something in mind: that at this very moment, thousands of doctors and scientists are committed, driven actually, to finding a cure for the scourge called inflammation. Maintaining some optimism is essential to your coping …and you must let it in despite what feels unfair and outrageous.
Hannah, receiving a serious medical diagnosis has been likened to experiencing a death, and you need time and space to grieve for your old self. These feelings come in stages and are universal, be they centered on illness or the loss of someone we love.
You may experience some or all of the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The order of them does not matter, and they may not all pertain to you. What is vital is that you acknowledge that you are still you. Now you are dealing with a different set of cards, and it goes for all of us. Change is a living territory, for better or for worse.
Try to keep in mind that what you are feeling is no different from someone living a continent away or three doors down from you, and you are not alone. When you visit your physician, it is important that along with the medical and clinical aspects of the condition, that you are offered support and care as well as the time necessary to ask important questions about your diagnosis. You need time to digest information about the various treatment options that are available to you. Having more information at your finger-tips and access to highly-trained professionals will help. In turn, you can take that information and educate your friends and family who may not understand your needs or how to adapt to them.
Often friends don’t understand a medical condition, especially younger people, so the more you can communicate your limitations as well as your desire to socialize, the less isolated you will feel.
With information, your friends will understand that you can do one thing but not another, and good friends will want to make allowances. They don’t want you sitting home alone. There are ways for you to be accommodated and included. But they need information in order to help.
The same goes for work. You mentioned that you have had to cut your work back to a part- time basis. What you require is a multi-disciplinary, coordinated approach to your life. There are experts who have helped plenty of patients before you. Let them help. Having a supportive network provided by a team so that your mental, emotional and physical care receives the attention it deserves will allow you to live more fully.
If it all sounds heavy, it’s because you are in the period of adjustment. Remember, nothing in life is static. There will be times when you feel better. There is always hope of new drugs and treatments. Don’t spend your time waiting, spend it living the fullest life you can. Plan ahead. If you need to conserve your energy for an outing with friends, do it. Hannah doesn’t have to be stuck in the house.
Madame hopes that as you adjust you can rid yourself of the energy-sapping anger and instead have a little fun. You deserve it.