The Emotional Impact of Living with Psoriatic Arthritis
After I got over the initial shock and denial of my diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), I quickly realized that living with PsA impacts every single aspect of daily life. It is not a disease that is limited to physical pain, there is a whole emotional side to it that often does not get the attention it deserves. One of the hardest side effects to deal with emotionally is the loss of control and helplessness. Its effects are far reaching. They range from physical limitations, such as difficulty opening lids and holding coffee mugs, to out of control feelings of anxiety, depression, and uselessness. It is easy to see how one of the major emotional stumbling blocks with PsA is a sense of feeling out of control and helpless.
Being a parent with PsA
I remember a particularly trying day early in my diagnosis before I really knew the impact of all my physical limitations. I am a mother to three young children and I was busily trying to get their breakfast together as I had done nearly every day of their lives for the past 5 years. I attempted to lift the jug of milk it fell from my hand and splattered all over my kitchen. It took every ounce of strength in me not to just melt right into a puddle of tears on the floor and I would have had it not been for the 3 sets of little eyes watching me, waiting to see how I would react. I only let the tears slide out of my eyes once my youngest, at just 2 years, whispered, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk, Mommy.”
It became very evident that while I could no longer reliably control the muscles in my hands, I could control my reactions. I can choose to wallow in my own self-pity and helplessness or I can chose to make the most of every day. It is in this ability to choose that I am able to find control in my life again.
The emotional effects are real
The emotional effects of PsA are real. Anxiety, depression, mood swings, and anger are all part of the disease and also side effects of many of the medications we take. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of these in your life and be proactive in fighting them. Here are a few suggestions for handling the emotional effects of PsA.
What can you do?
- Keep a journal– Regular introspective journaling helps you to keep in touch with what your head is thinking and your heart is feeling. Free journaling helps clear your mind and can offer a keen insight into making sense of complex emotions. Journaling also helps your mind sort out fact from fiction in the ever changing landscape of living with this disease.
- Try yoga– Some days, even simple movements can feel near impossible. Studies show that even doing a little physical activity can have big benefits, especially for those with chronic illnesses. Doing a gentle form of yoga like Ananda Yoga or Hatha Yoga regularly can help loosen tight muscles, relieve aching joints, and calm inflammation. Please be sure to check with your doctor before beginning yoga or any exercise regime.
- Talk it out- Do not underestimate the power of a good talk with a trusted friend. Sure, they may not be a fellow PsA warrior, but a trusted friend can listen and help you feel less alone. Oftentimes, those outside of the disease can offer unique insight and understanding in ways those of us who live with it every day cannot.
- Join a support group– There are many local and online support groups willing to help, listen, and empathize with your pain and frustration. Facebook and other similar social media sites have many groups of people, around the world, that can help you understand this disease, offer support, and feel less alone.
- Seek medical advice– If at any time, you feel the emotions are too much to bear, have thoughts of suicide, or of harming yourself, do not hesitate to seek medical help immediately. If you feel depressed, or unlike yourself be sure to discuss these feelings with your doctor and get the help you need.
If, like me, you are struggling with the emotional aspects of PsA take control back and take active steps to ensure your emotional health and well-being. Do it as much for yourself as for those who love you. After all, you never know what little sets of eyes are watching you, just waiting to be inspired.