Welcome to Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy! Have you ever wondered how you too could become a real Superhero? Read the following 10 easy steps and find out!
1. You Already Are A Superhero! First of all, if you are living with Rheumatoid Arthritis or any another autoimmune disorder, or are the caregiver of someone who is living with one of these diseases, then you already are a Superhero! (You didn’t think it was going to be this easy, did you?) Seriously though, let’s think about this a little more. By most definitions, a person requires actual superhuman powers in order to be deemed a Superhero. (A cool costume doesn’t hurt either!) I don’t know about you, but dealing with and overcoming the continuous challenges that rheumatoid arthritis introduces into our lives certainly does qualify as “superhuman powers.”
2. Do You Know What’s Wrong With This Picture? If you mention Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, or Batman, most people know who you are talking about. Unfortunately, RA Superheroes still have to work a little harder in order to gain this recognition and have others know who we are. (Maybe this is why no one from Marvel Comics has yet to return my phone calls?) Does the following conversation sound the least bit familiar?
According to all of the comments that have already been received, there can be no doubt that RA Superheroes encounter uninformed comments and a lack of awareness on a regular basis. Sure, this can be annoying…and sometimes even downright hurtful. Increasing awareness about our disease is certainly a challenge, but the ability to do so is definitely just one of the many powers that all of us RA Superheroes have!
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3. Help Raise Awareness: Are You Talking About RA? At the Daily Planet, no one knows that Clark Kent is actually a Superhero. This same situation may hold true in your workplace, or in your personal life. Many Superheroes (including Superman himself) are concerned about not revealing too many aspects of their true identities, and this is perfectly understandable. When it comes to living with a disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis, there is a fine line between privacy and awareness. How might others react? Will there be repercussions if my employer finds out that I am chronically sick? What about family and friends? There are many ways to talk about RA, both privately and publicly. Not only does talking allow us to receive the support and understanding that we need, but it also goes a long was in helping to increase RA awareness–which can only help all of us RA Superheroes. So in a way that is right for you, Are You Talking About RA?
Superhero Tip: Don’t forget to laugh!
“I got into a cage match with my immune system,
and my immune system seems to have won.” -RA Guy
4. Help Raise Awareness: 60-Second Guide To RA. One of the biggest challenges of talking to people about Rheumatoid Arthritis is first figuring out a way to explain this disease. (It sometimes seems like a lot of the explanations that can be found online require some sort of medical background in order to completely understand.) Even after I was diagnosed with RA, I still could not fully comprehend exactly how RA worked, much less explain so to others. It was for this reason that a couple of years ago, I wrote the 60-Second Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis–which really takes only a minute to read! (It even has a countdown timer, like they use in the action movies.) Full of cool drawings and Superhero references, this guide is perfect to use when talking about RA with family members, friends, and co-workers.
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5. Help Raise Awareness: Real Profiles Of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Just as all of us have the power to raise awareness of Rheumatoid Arthritis, we also have the ability to create an accurate depiction of the people who live with rheumatoid arthritis. Young and old. Male and female. Recently diagnosed and long-time RA veterans. There is no one “typical” representation of this disease. Some of us have no visible signs of our illness and might often be told “but you don’t look sick!” Some of us might have crooked fingers and other damaged joint. Some of us use different mobility aids in order to get around. Some of us have physical scars from joint replacement surgeries. Read and share some of the current Real Profiles of RA, or consider submitting your own. Let’s show the rest of the world what RA Superheroes really look like!
6. Have Some Fun: You Know You Have RA When…! Being a Superhero is a lot of work. It’s important, however, to always make sure that there is enough time to have fun and to laugh. It’s interesting, how the exact same thoughts that can make us cry can also make us laugh. Case in point: You Know You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis When… What can you add to the list? Some of my favorites: Briana’s “…a thoroughly productive day means you only took 3 naps.” Or Bengta’s “…you’re walking in a crowd of people and fall to the back and realize you’re thankful that you’re not a gazelle on the Sahara desert because you’re pretty sure you would be picked off by a lion or something.” I myself can relate to 99% of the responses. (This one response broke my perfect streak: Megan’s “…your husband has to unhook your bra, and it’s only so you can change into jammies!”)
Superhero Tip: Don’t forget to laugh some more!
“Don’t you just love the meds? While Superman gets abs of steel,
I’m left with a stomach that seems to be made of tissue paper.” -RA Guy
7. Have Some Fun: Play RA Bingo! Okay, I admit that there is absolutely nothing fun about being in a flare. But if we’re going to have to be in a flare, over and over again, we might as well try to figure out a way to have fun while we’re there. Not possible, you might be thinking to yourself? Then try playing RA Bingo, otherwise know as Flare! Don’t forget, RA Superheroes who play by the blackout rules do so at their own responsibility…and I am in no way to blame for anyone who might actually be looking forward to the arrival of his or her next flare. B-I-N-G-O…er, I mean, F-L-A-R-E!
8. Have Some Fun: Ride The RA Rollercoaster! Ride the RA Rollercoaster! Just like an actual flare, with one major difference: on this ride, you can actually get off whenever you want to! This ride is not for the faint of heart…but then again, neither is Rheumatoid Arthritis itself. Enjoy (or at least, as much as you can!)
9. Join The Superhero Wall Of Fame! Now that you have reached this next-to-last step, why don’t you show the world the Superhero who you are by adding your name to the Superhero Wall Of Fame! What type of Superhero are you? How long have you been a Superhero? What are some of your Superhero powers? In what city is your Superhero headquarters located? Proudly share your basic Superhero information, and read about all the other RA Superheroes located around the world. (All Autoimmune Superheroes and Caregiver Superheroes are welcome!)
Superhero Tip: Stay Strong!
“All of us who live with RA can work to change uninformed attitudes and perceptions. If we continue to share our stories and talk about what it means to live with rheumatoid arthritis, awareness will continue to grow. If we continue to be open about the physical and emotional challenges that we face on a regular basis, then maybe–just maybe, others will start to see our ability to accept the limitations that rheumatoid arthritis brings into our lives as a sign of personal strength.” -RA Guy
10. Don’t Lose Hope! Even though this is the last step, it’s probably the most important one of ‘em all! The challenges we Superheroes encounter are serious, and at times they may seem too difficult to overcome. No matter what happens, though, it’s critical that we not lose hope. Talk to a friend, family member, or co-worker about RA. Visit one of the many online support groups, forums, and blogs that are available for people living with RA and their caregivers. Together we can not only provide each other the support that we need, but we can also work to increase awareness of Rheumatoid Arthritis!