While Madame Ms. Meniscus was away on a much deserved summer vacation, we invited her dear readers to play Advice lady and offer up their own counsel.

Here’s the question followed by reader responses:

Dear Madame:

I am a 35-year-old woman who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis three year ago. Many days I am in pain and can hardly get out of bed. I am married with three children and found it too difficult to keep my job and keep up with the kids so now I’m home all day. The problem is my mother-in-law who lives in an apartment attached to the house. She thinks I am faking being sick because she says, “I don’t look sick.” The thing is she’s sneaky about it. She acts all nice in front of my husband but when he’s  not around she’ll suddenly swoop down on me if she sees me doing something (like gardening) when I’m feeling better. She’s driving me crazy. Please advise.

Annie in Pennsylvania

The readers respond:

Caryl Shade: I would explain that I don't need her to "believe" in my disease for it to be real. A doctor with many more years of education than she has says you have the disease. I think you have to stand up to bullies, even when they are your mother-in-law, maybe especially when they are your mother-in-law. You don't have to sound mean when you talk back to her. Just very matter of fact and then move on. Come up with a couple things you can say back to her and repeat them each time she says something. She'll stop after she gets the idea you aren't backing down.

Tina Pasquella Lynch: Ah mother in laws. I find it is very difficult for older people who don't have our disease to fully understand it and what it does to us. I got a lot of crap because of all the meds I was on and because not feeling up to doing certain things. I had my husband go to an appointment with me and now he fully supports me. I gave up trying to explain to others why I can’t do certain things. Maybe give your mil some stuff to read about your disease or have her go to an appointment with you. I also agree with Caryl.

Shannon Baker:  Maybe she needs to go with you to your next appt. Or maybe she needs to educate herself on what RA is and what it destroys.  My daughter suffers extreme pain daily but she knows that if she stops moving it would get the best of her. Stay strong 

Pat Samour: I think asking her to go to a visit with u might help. My mother was a non-supporter until she went to an infusion session with me. U need to keep your hubby out of the middle of it, which I think u r doing. That is his mom, bitch that she is, and u r obviously stuck with her. Have u asked for her help with your kids or cooking for her son on bad days?

J.G. Chayko: She doesn't realize that RA is one of those invisible diseases where it's difficult for people to accept you are sick. Unless she is willing to learn about your disease, I say focus on you and staying as well as you can. You can't change how others will see you. I have been through the same experience: http://theoldladyinmybones.com/2013/06/09/the-invisible-disease/

Joan Huntsinger: Many people, including almost everyone I've had a relationship with, not just in-laws, don't understand how I can have good days  &  bad days. In my case, my father-in-law told her to give me a break :p) he understood  that I'm so much more than my health! He reminded her that their son had married "the right woman." Not sure if I ever thanked him for that, but he knew. We have lost both of them now & they are missed.

Lorraine Webb: I remember when my flare ups were horrible.. I had people asking my sister in law if I was really that bad or if I just wanted some attention.. They would make comments.. I learned to accept there are people who think they know it all…All that matters is the people I needed to believe me did and they support me 100 percent..

Joan Coney: She should not have to prove anything to her mother in law as long as your husband stands by her side that's all she needs mother-in-law improved not necessary if you're sick you're sick people do not understand invisible sickness and never will.

Pam Soule: Pray for her, and keep on going ! I get that a lot , now I just ignore the ignorance of those who don't understand my pain !!! Keep on keeping on !!!!

Snowdancer: Been there way too many times. Usually I simply say, " Do you believe in God? " The response is usually affirmative. Then I say, " How can you believe in someone you can't see or feel? " If the person persists, I then ask if they've ever felt pain? Because how can you feel pain if you can't see it, but you're darned sure it hurts?! Usually shuts them up. If they still keep it up, just ignor them, because they are incapable of understanding until it happens to them.