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Psoriatic Arthritis and the Right To Be Sad




Sometimes when the diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis comes, the first response can be disbelief. But sometimes it can even be relief - to have an answer, to be headed in a better direction. Upon diagnosis, emotions swirl around us as we are additionally plagued with uncertainty about the future and what the next steps might be. And sometimes, we experience a deep and profound feeling of sadness. And that's okay. There are times when psoriatic arthritis and the right to be sad go hand-in-hand.

How did I feel after my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis?

When I was first diagnosed, I worked hard to put on a brave face for my family and friends. I assured them (as much as myself) that I’d be okay. I was relieved to have a direction and a name for the myriad of symptoms I experienced every day. The doctor told me there were plenty of advanced medications we could try and a positive mental outlook was important. And yes, all of those things were and are true.

But in the mix of emotions, one of the most undervalued is simple sadness. And in the end, you have every right to be sad if that is what you feel. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. No matter where you are on your PsA journey, it is difficult. It is okay to acknowledge that fact. Feeling sad is just as valuable an emotion as any other. Sure, we may not like it nearly as much as happiness but if we didn’t experience it, can we really call ourselves human? Is it not sadness that makes happiness all the sweeter?

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Do I still feel grief and sadness?

Upon diagnosis and pretty much anytime after that you may experience grief and feelings of loss. I am over 8 years post diagnosis now and I still periodically experience moments of grief and sadness because I can’t do things I wish I could or used to be able to do. And that is okay too. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

What helps me with my my mental health?

I know sadness and grief can both be depressing topics. But it is so important to have a safe place where we can talk about these feelings of sadness and grief without judgment or feeling like we have to censor our feelings to appear upbeat and to “put on a brave face” for others. No one WANTS to feel sadness or grief. But refusing to acknowledge these feelings or even giving them a louder voice than happiness or joy is equally detrimental. In my experience, sometimes simple acknowledgement and room to just feel the feeling can make a remarkable difference in my mental health.

If you aren’t in a good mental space right now, I certainly don’t want to make it worse. However in my experience, if I ignore these feelings of sadness and continue to push them back into the darkness then I’m just making the situation worse. Acknowledging these feelings of sadness, grief, and even loss can be the first step to a new, more positive outlook.

Developing psoriatic arthritis is a life-changing experience, not only on diagnosis day but on many different days afterward as well. We often need to adjust our trajectory and treatment plan as our disease progresses and changes.

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How do you know when you need additional support?

There is a difference between occasional feelings of sadness and ongoing battles with depression. If you struggle with depression or feel like your sadness is unrelenting, please speak with your doctor or another health professional.

Wallowing, extended sadness, or refusing to move on are all signs that you may need some help processing the challenges of life with PsA. And that is perfectly okay and normal. Sometimes you just need an empathetic ear from a friend, or sometimes speaking to a professional would be the most beneficial.

All of that being said, I’d love to know a few things- have you experienced feelings of sadness related to your PsA? How do you handle it? Is there anything that helps you accept these feelings and then move on in a more positive headspace?

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