"I can't really remember life without arthritis, or “Arthur” as I call him. He joined me when I was nine years old, nearly 40 years ago."
My life hasn’t turned out how I’d planned at nine years old, but then whose has?
I’ve found that being a glass half full type, that is having a positive attitude, is an asset for someone with a chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Pain, joint swelling, stiffness and disability can lead to emotional problems such as stress and depression, which tend to aggravate Arthur.
But sometimes I have to work at looking on the bright side of life. Over the years I’ve found a range of feel-good tactics that help Arthur and I cohabit peacefully, including:
‘They’ say laughter is the best medicine so phone that funny friend, watch American Pie again, play frisbee with your dog or borrow the latest Janet Evanovich from the library. Do something that tickles your funnybone.
Jump in your car, crank up the stereo and head off down the highway. I find singing and head bangin’ along to the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody increases my sense of adventure.
Exercising doesn’t have to be a chore. Replace the weeds in the garden with some flowering plants, walk the dog by the river, bop to your favourite tunes while vacuuming or join your friends for a yoga class.
Whether you lend an ear to a friend, donate to a worthy cause or volunteer your time, helping others takes your mind off your troubles and gives you a warm glow inside. It also reminds you there are others worse off than you.
The endorphin-inducing power of Tim Tams dunked in a good coffee or beer battered fish and chips with a sav blanc shouldn’t be underestimated.
Have you ever noticed that on a cloudy or cold day, everyone is clad in black and wearing a frown? Your clothes definitely influence your mood so lift it by wearing something bright and happy. If you must wear black, spice it up with a cheerful item such as a pink belt or sky blue scarf.
I suck at anything arty and crafty, and reading is more a way of life than a hobby, so I collect recipes. Not that I’m a great chef. I just love pasting recipes into large exercise books, which I take hours to flip through before grocery shopping each week.
I’m a big fan of the whinge. I could whinge for Australia if whingeing was an Olympic sport. But there’s a fine line between getting something off your chest and becoming that person people duck into doorways to avoid. Make sure you know someone who will warn you before you cross that line.
But sometimes, no matter what you do, you just can’t get out of your funk.
That’s when you need to talk to your family or friends or head to the websites of support organisations such as Arthritis Queensland or Beyond Blue for resources to help you cope with your RA or depression.
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed and unable to cope, you should visit your doctor who can advise on options such as counselling or medication.