7 Ways I Take Care of My Mental Health While Living With RA

One of the many side effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that is rarely talked about is depression and anxiety. People living with RA are twice as likely to become depressed. This is a natural reaction due to our limited ability to function while living in chronic pain. The anxiety of living in a body that is so unpredictable can take it’s toll on our mental health.

Depression can also cause us to have more RA flares. What most people do not understand is that not only do we struggle with our bodies, but our relationships struggle as well. When we don’t feel well we tend to alienate ourselves from the people we love.

I suffered from depression and anxiety for years before my RA diagnosis. I went to therapy for a total of five years and after three years of treatment, I no longer needed to be on medication for depression. When I told my therapist about my diagnosis he immediately wanted me to go back on medication. I continued to work with my therapist to monitor my moods.

My therapist gave me some coping tips that I will share with you, but if you are experiencing any symptoms of depression please talk to your doctor right away.

Our mental health is very important because we need a strong mind to fight RA.

I am not going to tell you the traditional ways of fighting depression – like exercise, yoga, or to get enough sleep, because we all know that may not work with RA. Yes exercise is important, but it’s really hard to keep a routine when you are in a flare. I am not a doctor or psychologist, but I would like to share what has helped me to cope living with RA, and keeping my depression and anxiety at bay for the last eight years.

1. Talk to someone, anyone, especially your rheumatologist. A trusted friend, family member and anyone who will listen. Talking it out helps us to not become withdrawn.

2. Learn more about RA. I know it’s the last thing you may want to do, but staying on top of the latest RA news helps empower you, and you will not feel so out of control. You can also ask your doctor about new treatments and ask to change your medication if you feel it isn’t working. I spent way to much time wishing my disease away instead of learning how it would affect my body. Now I have learned that early treatment is key to prevent further joint damage.

3. Listen your favorite music. Not only does it help boost your mood but it can keep a lot of negative thought away. I also dance, which helps me stay mobile.

4. Write about your feelings, your life story, and how RA has changed your life. Putting your feeling out there on paper is a kind of therapy. If you don’t want to share publicly, write into a journal.

5. Join a support group. Thank God for Facebook! There are so many awesome support groups out there. You can vent in the private groups with people that really understand you and you stay connected with the outside world. You will also make new friends that understand what it’s like to live with RA.

6. For me, prayer and meditation helps anxiety and panic attacks. Now I am not here to preach or tell you what to do, but I can tell you my faith in God has done more or me in the last eight years than five years of therapy and medication combined.

7. Please see a medical professional. RA warriors need to be strong enough to face whatever new challenge this disease can throw at us.

I hope this article has been helpful, that’s my RA perspective.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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