If there’s one thing I have learned since I developed RA, it’s that having a chronic illness can make you feel pretty lonely sometimes. When I was first diagnosed, I felt very alone in my disease. No one in my family had RA and I only knew one friend who had it. It was hard to explain what I was going through the pain, the fatigue, and all the different treatment options. It seemed like everyone I knew had an opinion on what I should do, but no one really understood what I was going through.
Blogging as a way to work through feelings
At first, I only had my husband, my doctor and one friend with RA to talk to about how I was feeling. It wasn’t long, however, before I needed more. I found there were forums online for people with RA, but many of them just focused on symptoms and medications. I need more emotional and spiritual support. I began blogging as a way of sharing what I was going through and dug into my faith in order to find inspiration and hope. It not only helped me work through my feelings, but it soon connected me to other bloggers who were sharing their experiences with RA.
Developing a support network
Over time, I developed friendships with specific people within the RA blogging community. I also found other online support networks on Facebook and even Twitter that enabled me to have a safe space for sharing questions, concerns, and feelings as my health situation evolved. With the help of my Pack Health coach, I learned how to manage my disease more effectively and my online support network became more than a place for me to find answers; rather, it became a place where I could support others as well.
Staying positive and keeping hope alive
One of the best things about having a good support network is knowing you have a place to go where you can be completely open and honest about your life, without fear of judgment. Life with RA is difficult sometimes, and it’s nice to have friends who understand. It’s easier to get through it all when you can get day-to-day encouragement, and being able to offer positive words of encouragement can make you feel good too! For all we can”t do because of this disease, helping each other can give us a sense of purpose.
As I have gotten to know other people with RA, through my support groups, I have gained a sense of hope. I have seen others struggling with many more RA issues than I have, and yet they are making it! And there are others who have come from behind, only to now be doing some amazing things now that they have found a course of treatment that works for them. As we cheer each other on in both small and big successes and encourage each other through difficulties, we find that we are better together. That loneliness has disappeared, because I realize now, that when we reach out to others, we find we are never really alone after all.
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