Every Saturday morning for over six years, some of my friends and I would meet at Alice Marble Park and play basketball. It’s a beautiful park on a hill in San Francisco, overlooking the bay and Golden Gate Bridge on one end and Coit Tower on the other.
After a few hours of playing basketball, we’d head out to grab some brunch, hang-out and catch-up on work, family, sports, or whatever was on our minds.
Saturday morning was our time to relax and laugh for a few hours each week. Regardless of what we all had going on, we had those few hours every Saturday morning to look forward to.
Even though I was diagnosed with ankle osteoarthritis (OA) at 28, I continued to play basketball for a little longer, not wanting to stop. Once the OA progressed to the point where I could no longer play basketball, those Saturday mornings up on Alice Marble Park were gone. And so was that opportunity for comradery with friends.
Considering I played basketball my entire life, it might be easy to think that’s what I would miss the most. But after I had stopped, I realized it wasn’t the basketball that I missed, but instead it was the time spent hanging-out with my friends after the games.
While getting over being able to play basketball was difficult, missing out on those Saturday mornings hanging out with everyone was tougher to get over.
As my osteoarthritis progressed, it started to take away other pieces of my social life. No longer could I go on hikes, run to the Golden Gate Bridge, or walking around the city on a beautiful afternoon.
Instead of hanging out with friends on some afternoons, I had to spend the time laying on my couch watching TV because I was too sore to move.
I’ve had to cancel plans last minute or turn down chances to do some really exciting activities. And having to turn down or cancel last minute only adds to the already frustrating and depressing feeling that living with OA can cause.
“Learning how to manage social activities with friends was another piece of the puzzle for me to living with early onset osteoarthritis.”
While I not only had to accept that I couldn’t do everything I wanted, I had to balance expectations with my friends as well by letting them know that there’s a chance I will not be able to go.
Over the years I’ve gotten better at picking and choosing how and when to be social, as well as how to explain to my friends why I’m missing an event.
Adjusting to a new type of social life has taking time and patience, just like learning to manage my osteoarthritis itself. Improving communication, planning more “OA activities,” and being comfortable saying “no” all play a role in managing the social component of living with OA.
To read more about Ryan’s journey managing his OA at his personal blog: My Life with Osteoarthritis