For many, getting diagnosed with a chronic illness can feel like a death sentence. Dreams and aspirations no longer seem realistic or achievable. The pockets of joy found in day-to-day life are seemingly wiped away in an instant. People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and other chronic illnesses suddenly have to face the reality of living in chronic pain. While a diagnosis can feel overwhelming, hope isn’t lost. It is possible to maintain a good quality of life with a chronic illness. You just need a little guidance. 

Accepting Your Diagnosis

The hardest part about getting diagnosed with a chronic illness is accepting it. When things are hard or are expected to make our lives more difficult, our instinct is to reject it; to push it away from us. The best thing you can do is lean into it. Let yourself feel scared, stressed, depressed, whatever! Your emotions during this time are valid and suppressing them will cause more harm in the long run. Instead of mourning forever, give yourself a set period of time to wallow in it. This can be a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Take the time you need to accept this huge change in your life. 

Making Sustainable Lifestyle Adjustments

Once you’ve accepted your diagnosis, you can begin moving forward. What this can look like is you making achievable, realistic adjustments in your life for the sake of your illness. As an example, if you’re struggling with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, you may experience more joint pain in the mornings. A lifestyle change could be adding a stretching routine into your day when you first wake up. There are PT-approved exercises for people suffering from arthritis and other diseases. If you experience appetite loss, an adjustment you could make would be stocking your pantry with your favorite snacks – things that would appeal to you even when you weren’t feeling particularly hungry. These changes will vary person to person just as symptoms vary. Understanding your body and your needs can help you make the right choices for you. 

Finding A Support System

Support groups can be invaluable during your diagnosis. Speaking with individuals who are going through the same thing you’re going through can provide much-needed empathy in a time where you’re struggling to even get out of bed. If you do some research, you can most likely find support groups in your area, and you can definitely find support groups online. It’s important not to dwell on your illness in an unhealthy way. If you find these support groups are making you more unhappy and leading to feelings of helplessness, consider seeking support from other outlets. 

A doctor may recommend medical research studies to you. Joining a study can connect you with other individuals suffering from the same illness. Not only can you commiserate over your shared illness, but you can also share your experience with the study and your hope for a better outcome with each other.

Being open with family members and friends during this difficult time can also be helpful. These are the people who love you the most, and while most of them may not be able to relate personally to your illness, they can support you as you try to navigate this new journey in your life. 

What You Can Do If You’re Experiencing Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be life-altering. A diagnosis can feel jarring and scary. If you’re struggling, you may be eligible for medical research studies. The contRAst program is a new treatment option that has the potential to provide much-needed relief to sufferers of RA. Joining a study could not only help you but can help millions of others struggling with a diagnosis. If you live in Houston Texas, speak with Dr. Brionez at Advanced Rheumatology of Houston. Her team can help you identify if you qualify for the study, and guide you in the next steps you need to take to be considered. To learn more about the study, go here.