So Someone You Know Was Diagnosed with Inflammatory Arthritis

With how many people have arthritis – the CDC’s new data shows that it’s 54 million Americans, or 1 in 4 adults – there is a huge change that you know someone who has it. That covers everyone with arthritis, including osteoarthritis, which is generally wear and tear on the joints. Inflammatory arthritis, however, is a category of arthritis autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is one type, and that affects 1.5 million Americans.

Do you know someone who was recently diagnosed with a form of inflammatory arthritis? Here are some things you should know about how to and not behavior, as well as some resources to help you understand autoimmune arthritis better.

DO ask how they feel about it. They may or may not want to talk their feelings through.

DON’T say something along the lines of, “At least it’s not life threatening.” This is because (1) complications from it can be and (2) putting down the very real, dangerous, and painful experiences this person has/will experience(d) is just not a cool to do. You might think that you’re being helpful, but you’re really not.

DO let them talk it through without interrupting if they want to. They may need to process out loud.

DON’T look or act annoyed while they’re talking. They were just told that they have an incurable autoimmune disease that can be extremely painful. You shouldn’t be rude, and you also don’t want to make them feel like they’re a burden for talking to you about their situation.

DO ask if there’s anything you can do to help. The more specific the better here. For example, offer help carrying things if you know they struggle with that. Or offer to drive them to the grocery store if they need that. Most people do not feel comfortable just calling people out of the blue to ask for a favor – even if that person has offered to help – so by giving them a specific way you can help, you’re more likely to actually be able to help them. Here are 8 ways you can help someone with arthritis.

DON’T offer to help just for the sake of saying it. Only say it if you really mean it.

So someone in your life was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis, which is different than osteoarthritis. What do you do now? Here are some dos and don'ts to help you understand what's going on and how you can help them.

DO treat them like they’re normal. Because they are. However …

DON’T completely ignore this disease and how it affects their life. Treating them normally does not mean ignoring that they have arthritis.

DO let them tell you as much or as little as they want to. You are not privileged to any of their medical information if they do not want to share with you what their treatment plan is. And sometimes talking about it can help them process.

DON’T say, “But you’re so young!” or something along those lines. Arthritis doesn’t discriminate – not even osteoarthritis – and over 300,000 children have it. You thinking that they are too young to have it doesn’t change anything. It makes me feel really awkward when people say that to me.

Dos and don'ts if someone you know was recently diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis Click To Tweet

DO understand that they may have to change how their life works in order to best help their health. For example, they may have to cut down their activities and spend less time with you. Understand that this is not about you. It’s about how much they can do in a day.

DON’T tell them that they shouldn’t let the disease define them unless that is actually what you mean. Far too often, people say that when they really mean, “Ignore that this disease really shapes your life or else.” Arthritis does not define my life. However, if I acted like it shouldn’t and/or doesn’t shape my life, then I would end up in the hospital for pushing myself too much and hurting myself accidentally. My life is defined by the kind of person I am, the kind of writer I am, and the kind of friend/sister/daughter I am. But I would be delusional if I thought that arthritis didn’t have a role in any of that. I am the person, writer, friend, sister, daughter, etc. I am because of the arthritis. It has made me strong, compassionate, and helpful in ways that I would never have thought possible.

Ignoring that the arthritis does have a part of my life is ignoring a huge part of me. It isn’t the only part of me, but it is a large part. You wouldn’t try and ignore that I’m from Maine, would you? Because that has shaped me just as much as than the arthritis has, and you can’t take that away from the person that I am.

Like this post? Check out:

Is Arthritis a Big Deal?, The 8 Things a Millennial with Arthritis Wants You To Know + its followup, Answering Questions about Arthritis

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