Managing Relationships and Friendships With Psoriatic Arthritis
Last updated: June 2022
Managing life with a chronic illness like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) comes with many challenges. In addition to daily pain and fatigue, we're faced with overwhelming treatment options and multiple appointments. This is all on top of attempting to be a functional human being.
This article isn't about any of those things - this article talks about friendships and relationships - perhaps one of the most difficult challenges of managing life with chronic illness.
The impact of canceling plans
When I was first diagnosed with PsA, I had to learn how to navigate relationships with friends and loved ones. I didn't know how to communicate. The most hurtful thing - along with those sore joints - was the pain of being a mood wrecker and a party pooper.
Every time there was a big family event or a friend's night out, I would either have to cancel last minute or withdraw from the shenanigans halfway through. It became such a routine thing that my friends and family would not even ask me out due to my pattern of plan cancellations.
It wasn't their fault - nor was it really mine. I didn't communicate the true nature of my condition and pain, so how could they truly know or attempt to understand?
The decision to stop hiding
I found myself struggling emotionally when it came to navigating friendships and relationships. The get-togethers and sharing of plans triggered my anxiety. I could only think about the immense pressure of letting everyone down yet again.
I was already in so much pain. Being emotionally divided was not doing any good. My psychologist noticed this too. I cried for a good 20 minutes and shared every fear I had regarding social situations. I was suffering physically and emotionally. The more I wanted to spend time with the people I loved, the more difficult it became for me.
She listened to me patiently and encouraged me to communicate all the details of my condition with friends and family in detail. She said I had to stop hiding.
A thoughtful outcome
It seemed justifiable and an opportunity for honesty. If everyone knew what I was going through, perhaps we could come to a connected conclusion and thoughtful outcome. It's not anybody's fault. It's a communication gap - they don't know what I am going through, and the pain can be unpredictable.
I summoned all the bravery I could muster, and I decided to share my side of the story. I wasn't sure what to expect, but most of what I received was love and support - which I so desperately needed. That said, a handful of "friends" thought I was just lazy. I guess you can't expect everyone to understand.
The supportive ones have now made a tradition for - a contingency plan transition. They call me to check-in.
If I'm in pain, they initiate a Plan B of sorts - one that is more flexible and less tedious. When the pain is severe, they come directly over, make me comfortable and do all the fun while keeping me a part of it. Of course, there are times when I want to be left alone, and they understand.
The importance of communication
So, folks, communication is key. Share your reality if you don't want to lose yourself and your loved ones. Trust me, most will still not get it, and that is okay.
Set the appropriate boundaries, surround yourself with people that fill your cup, and please, oh please, don't give in to the guilt. You're so much stronger than that.
This or That
Do you feel you receive enough information about PsA from your doctor(s)?
Do you usually need to recover from a vacation?