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.
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