Monday, June 22, 2009

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Depression

New Depression / RA Study Is Not Surprising
Rheumatoid Arthritis is in the news this week. It seems researchers have found that most RA patients battle depression. The study was done with 75 RA patients, mostly women.

Was anyone surprised? I have never met anyone diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis who did not experience at least some depressing thoughts over the diagnosis. It is a normal reaction to news of such horrifying proportions.

For me, it was like a sentence without a crime. Of course I grieved! I grieved the myriad things which I had planned but would never do. I grieved my future. I grieved the delight of running on the beach. I grieved the pleasure of being able-bodied.

There is a normal grief process with several stages. Psychologists call it the normal grief process for a reason. It is considered healthy to encounter and process grief in each of those ways. And then it can be put aside.

Clinical depression is a more lasting sadness. It is like getting stuck. Often, counseling or even medication is needed to become un-stuck.

That’s the catch. Most things in life tend to cycle around: We have hard times, but they usually pass. Then there are some better days. There is an opportunity during a stronger period to process what has occurred.

But Rheumatoid Arthritis never reads the rule book. It tends to only progress. (That means “get worse.”) So, there may never be a period of lower stress during which you can process the feelings and move forward. Instead, there are often more shocking developments and more losses to grieve as the days go on.

It is pretty difficult to avoid getting stuck. Remember the diagram of the 4 courses of RA? Who could scale those peaks and not fall into a pit?

What can we do?

We can allow ourselves to grieve. We can purposely move through the normal stages, even if we must do it repeatedly (since the onslaughts of the Rheumatoid Arthritis are repeated). We can even welcome the grieving as healthy since we have honestly lost much.

Second, we can connect with others who understand and validate our grief. Often, those close to us do not understand what Rheumatoid Arthritis is or have denial issues about RA. Imagine trying to process grief over the death of a friend while folks are telling you “It’s not so bad.” As if it really is not. As if there had not been a death. That denial would not help the grief process.

Third, we can examine our medications and supplements. The study in the news today found that RA patients who use steroids are more likely to become depressed. Some supplements like Omega fatty acids are good for the RA symptoms and for our brains. Discuss depression with a doctor and consider what might be changed.

Fourth, of course, if we become truly stuck, we should ask for help. Sometimes, as mentioned, this means counseling or medication. At least for a spell.

Once in a Bible study on I Peter, I was taught something that really helped me: Stop being surprised at the trial you are enduring. You have brothers who are enduring the same suffering all around the world.

Peter was referring to persecution. But, it helps so much to stop being surprised at our suffering. No one is surprised at the grief of a cancer patient. Getting diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis is bad news. We ought to grieve.

RA / Depression study: Science Daily article UPI article Pysch central


Living It, Loving It said...

Kelly - I can so related to these feelings. Sometimes the pain and the just not feeling well feelings never subside and of course, that causing feelings of depression. I have learned to accept have RA and Fibro and I know that "a sentence without a crime" feeling and all these feelings of grieving - I know it all. I still feel like somedays like I will be in wheelchair within a year and other times, I remind myself it does not have to be that way. But stress plays a big role in my flare ups and working in a law office is not place for someone who needs to minimize. I take it one day at a time. I have to.

Kelly said...

Hi Living it.
Yes, you are right. One day at a time; we have to.

Synovial Sensation said...

Thank you Kelly, that's really helpful and a proper boost to morale! Best, Franky

Ching Ya said...

A very inspiring post. Even for non RA patients, we could all use some encouragements from this article. Some good ways to deal with depressions, applicable to many. Most importantly is to not keep it within our ownselves, but to speak up, telling somebody about it. Praying is a good way, as we know our prayers will be listened.

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andrew said...

Thanks for addressing a touchy subject. I have certainly seen the five stages of grief since my own diagnosis. And it oftentimes bounces back and forth. I think that sometimes it's different for folks with chronic illnesses like RA. We know we have many more years ahead of us but the continual fight with RA tends to wear us down at times.

Kelly said...

Ching Ya, welcome :)

Kelly said...

Yea, we can't grieve and be done with it because there is always another blow coming in.

But we gotta try...

Hey maybe for RA there should be the 50 stages instead of 5. Haha.