“But you don’t look sick!”
I am glad I am not a walking billboard for the disease. I am relieved there is no huge neon sign above my head flashing “PERSON WITH RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS RIGHT HERE!”
I know people mean this as a compliment. Unfortunately, this comment bothers me the most.
It alludes to the fact people may not believe I am truly ill. The misconception remains that most illnesses have outward symptoms.
That is not the case with RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a silent illness. It is an inflammatory disease that affects the cartilage around the joints. It also affects other organs and systems in the body. Generally, there are no visible signs of the disease.
So, people with RA do not look ill.
In the beginning people are concerned, after all, they know it is a disease and it is chronic. That much they understand. As time passes, the people who were most concerned are also the people who get the most annoyed.
‘She is probably fine’
‘She is making excuses’
‘It’s all in her mind’
‘It’s probably just stress’
This one thought, that is meant to sound supportive, is the gate-way to more misguided ideas of what it is like to have this disease.
It allows people to suspend belief when most convenient. They choose not to care when it suits them. They are able to place blame on the sick person because they do not understand the nature of the disease.
Part Two explains my personal feelings on this comment.
Part Three contains “the silver lining”.
Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.