Pain isn't Always My Worst Psoriatic Arthritis Symptom
I've certainly had plenty of low points while living with psoriatic arthritis. Of course, that includes severe flares that made walking, talking, and even lying down excruciating. And yes, the pain has played a big part throughout these times. But I would be kidding myself if I didn't call out other symptoms, like fatigue, that made these periods downright miserable.
There is more than just the impact of pain
I don't want to downplay the extent of the pain. It can keep me up late at night or wake me in the small hours of the morning. Pain can make it impossible to feel comfortable in any position and drive me to the point of mental and emotional breakdowns.
But there are times the pain can be easier to push through than getting through the day with no energy or feeling like the tin man.
Fatigue and other symptoms
Symptoms other than pain can be overwhelming and quickly take over my life. Fatigue has dominated my life many times. I have had periods in my life where all I did was drag myself to work, come home, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. Others don't realize that I'm just trying to keep my life together despite feeling like I have never-ending flu during these times.
Other symptoms have been extremely problematic, too. Brain fog, joint stiffness, vertigo, and depression are a few that have a significant impact on my life whenever they rear their heads. They can make it hard to make it through the day.
Awful side effects
Not to mention, sometimes it's getting used to a new treatment that is the most overwhelming thing I'm dealing with. Headaches, nausea, vomiting, having no appetite, and heart palpitations have come when medicines didn't agree with me.
There were times that these issues made it impossible to continue taking the medication safely. But I've also been able to safely push through some temporary side effects that were well worth it in the end.
Communication is important
One of the most important things you can do to make these things better is to make others aware of what you're going through. Your doctor especially needs to know so they can note these things, as they can be signs that you need a change in your treatment plan due to rising inflammation or other issues.
It also helps to let trusted loved ones in on what you're going through. Sometimes, loved ones let us down by not understanding. But try to explain in relatable ways; I often relate my flares to a case of the flu because of how tired and achy I am. And explain what impact that has on your life. Maybe you can still go to work, but it makes taking care of chores more difficult.
Ask for help, and try to be specific in your request. Vaguely asking for help can make people unsure of what to do, but asking for help with laundry or preparing dinner might be more successful. And don't be afraid to repeat your request when necessary! Sometimes others need a gentle reminder.
Validation is everything
I wish I had a cure to make everyone's symptoms and side effects go away. I wish it were as simple as staying hydrated, taking naps, and always taking your vitamins (while they aren't a cure, I do find those things can be a little helpful).
I can offer something that I know goes very far: validation. Dealing with PsA symptoms can be draining and have a significant impact on your quality of life. What you are going through is real, and it would be hard for anyone to cope with. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.
How do you plan to recognize PsA Awareness Month?