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RA and Work: How I Handle Flares

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Andy Pendergrass - Blogs
By Andy PendergrassMarch 30, 2021

Working a full-time job with rheumatoid arthritis looks different for every person who has the condition.

It depends mostly on the career and the frequency of severity of flares. But I think your outlook also plays a big part.

For me, I am blessed to be a part owner in a family business. Our team is very close knit, and even the staff who do not share our last name still care for each other like family.

This is a huge blessing for me, as they understand that I have a chronic disease that can come on and dominate my physical abilities without much warning.

In those difficult, pain-ridden times, I find that it is best to communicate well with my co-workers. The sooner I tell them that I am feeling a flare-up coming on, the better. It gives them as much time as possible to prepare and set their expectations before the pain knocks me down or out.

My co-workers have seen me limp around the office enough times to know what it looks like for me to be experiencing some discomfort.

Once the flare-up hits, I try to maintain normal work activities as much as possible. No two flare-ups are exactly alike. Staying in the normal flow of work gives my co-workers the trust that I’m not going to fold up and go home as soon as I start feeling a flare-up come on. The truth is, I can work through some flare-ups, and I feel it’s important that I work through the ones I can. This earns my co-workers’ respect, so when I have a flare-up that does send me to bed, they know it must be pretty bad and they don’t mind picking up the slack.

Even if I am in pain that puts me in the bed, I try to do any work I can. I take my laptop home with me and try to get some things done from home -- even if it’s only something small. It not only helps my team, but it also helps them feel like I won’t give up and stick them with all the work.

Having the determination to hang tough is so important, in my opinion.  I’m also a believer in giving more effort than necessary when I feel good so that my co-workers are eager to help when my pain does slow me down.

I think it’s important to take job responsibilities seriously, and I hope everyone living with RA will give it their all every day, whatever that looks like for them. I think that when you approach your work in a way that earns the respect of your co-workers, it affects how all of us with RA are viewed. I want all of us with RA to be thought of as resilient -- because we are.

Photo credit:  Layla Bird/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author
Andy Pendergrass

Andy Pendergrass is an active 33-year-old certified financial planner who has been living with rheumatoid arthritis for 10 years. His passion is being healthy, active, and as pain free as possible so that he can maximize the fun with his wife and two sons. Andy stays in shape with CrossFit, Peloton, and soccer and loves playing golf and bow hunting. Follow Andy's journey on Instagram.

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