Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole
When I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis it rocked my world. Everything was the same and yet nothing was because I now officially had an autoimmune disorder. My first inclination, because I’m an information hound, was to become consumed with my disease. It was all I read about. It was all I thought about. And while information is a good thing, self-obsession is not. If you’re not careful your condition can become all you’re about. Which isn’t good for either your physical or mental health. Following are a few key areas of life that you want to make sure you don’t lose to your illness.
Because for many of us, our health insurance is linked to our jobs, it’s essential not to let PsA have any greater impact on your career than it has to. This can be more of a challenge if your job involves physical labor but even those of us who work desk jobs struggle. Work, however, can be a source of comfort if you let it. By focusing on your job and doing it well, that’s 8-10 hours a day that you’re not thinking about having PsA.
Hobbies & interests
That said, in my experience it’s not our careers that define who we are as much as it is what we do when we’re not working. Time spent with family, yes, but also time spent on ourselves. Our hobbies and interests can all too easily wind up taking a back seat to PsA. Don’t let them. A positive mindset is critical to the management of your condition. If you stop doing the things you love, you stop loving life. It takes a little more effort but I still make time for cooking, writing, kayaking, games, and traveling.
Exercise can be a real catch-22 if you have any form of arthritis. On one hand, all evidence points to exercise being highly beneficial with regards to mitigating the damage that PsA can do to your body over time. On the other hand it can be more difficult and, if not done correctly, can lead to further injury. The key then is to learn new ways to exercise. As a long-time weight lifter and runner I had to stop running and lifting heavy weights and move to swimming, elliptical machines, and lifting for endurance (light weights, 15 repetitions).
Yes, I’m going to “go there.” Few things make us feel as alive, young, and vibrant as a healthy sex life. Because it’s a physical act, PsA absolutely can complicate matters. But if I had to pick out one thing on this list that impacts my mental outlook more than any other, it would be this. What can make PsA especially devastating is the feeling that you’re losing who you used to be. Continuing to have a healthy and active sex life with my wife makes me feel as if I’m still the person I once was and that my PsA hasn’t changed everything in my life.
Psoriatic arthritis can be a rabbit hole of despair if you let it. You can’t ever be rid of it – at least not yet – but that doesn’t mean you have to let it swamp you. Even if it takes a little more effort to continue to engage in your life the way you did before your diagnosis, I promise you that you’ll be paid back many times over in what you get in return for that effort.