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Rheumatoid Arthritis and My Mental Health

Updated: May 13, 2022

By Suruthi (@fightrheumatoidarthritis)

The image is an infographic. The background is a light grey/blue. At the top there is the text “A LUNA project series on the intersection of physical health and mental health”and the LUNA logo. There are then three polaroid style infographics, the two on the right and left have images of the sea within them and are kind of cut off. The one in the centre has a picture of Suruthi  smiling, with the text underneath reading “Rheumatoid Arthritis and My Mental Health, by Suruthi (@fightrheumatoidarthritis)”. End of Description. 

When discussing the symptoms of my condition, it’s usually my joints and the side effects of my medication that get discussed, but over time I have found that there is something that is way more affected by my condition: my mental health. For a very long time, I’ve felt quite down and had negative feelings about myself because of my arthritis but it’s only recently that I’ve started speaking up about it. I’ve realised that I’m not just the odd occurrence and rheumatoid arthritis and depression are far more linked than you may have been led to believe.

I’ve always had my highs and lows but about two years ago, I noticed I no longer enjoyed the things I used to and I stopped taking care of myself and this made me see my GP. They steered me on the right path and I was able to start antidepressants while also seeing the wellbeing advisors for a chat here and there.

If there was one big piece of advice I could give anyone else who has started to see some changes and has started not feeling like themselves, it is to talk to someone. For me, I found talking to friends really helped because I had been putting on this front of being ‘fine’ and it was a relief to finally end the charade. I also saw some wellbeing advisors through Student Services who I felt like I could share more with, as I was sometimes hesitant to share details with my friends because I was worried of being judged. It’s taken time and work and patience but I really do think I’m starting to really feel better and a bit more stable.

As well as talking, what really helped me was routine. With a strict routine, I was able to finally have a normal sleeping pattern (unheard of in Uni for most) and this really helped me in so many aspects. I was no longer constantly pushing things around because I had either overslept or needed to sleep and I was also getting better sleep. I also like to focus on ‘me time’ because I found myself always wanting the company of others as if I was afraid of being alone. I set aside an evening a week where all I would do is cook dinner, go to the gym, watch a movie and unwind. Now I’m not saying Netflix and a good night’s sleep is going to make your low moods go away. But it might help more than you think.

I think the other thing that really changed the game for me was speaking out about my condition. I always had this feeling deep down that I shouldn’t be so open about it and it should be something to be ashamed of but speaking about it helped me change that inner narrative. I also got to find so many other amazing individuals who also have arthritis and/or a chronic illness and I found a community of people who not only listened but understood me. I can’t tell you how many happy tears I’ve shed finding out that something I thought was wrong with me was actually a less well known symptom of my condition. I’ve been able to get some amazing advice and support and I could not be more grateful to the chronic illness community I have found myself on Instagram.

I know this may sound like a rambling series of things I like but I think it's quite representative of improving mental health. Progress isn’t always linear and there are always ups and downs but you just need to start riding the waves and they will soon pass.

(Originally published 25/10/20)

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