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Staying Positive With Rheumatoid Arthritis


Penny Smith

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Penny Smith has rheumatoid arthritis. She lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The best ways to cope with rheumatoid arthritis will vary from person to person, but there’s one thing you can always control: keeping a positive outlook.

Of course, there have been times when staying positive has been a challenge for me. And some of the worst occasions have been after interactions with doctors who had a less than perfect bedside manner. During one visit, my doctor was switching my medications and I remember telling him that I couldn’t wait to feel better. Without even making eye contact, he said this was the best I was going to feel for the rest of my life.

Hearing that made me wonder why I was even there.

Penny talks about having a good attitude with rheumatoid arthritis.

Of course, this isn’t to say we should cover our ears and remain in denial about the downsides of a diagnosis. There were just times when I wish my doctors had said things differently or offered encouragement or a hopeful sentiment.

But my doctors do give me the information I need—and I need to have all the information. Being informed is so important. I need to know that my rheumatoid arthritis could progress to where I can’t go to the bathroom on my own. Understanding that it could be worse allows me to be grateful for every day that I can still walk or brush my hair.

And my joints do get worse. But crossword puzzles, books and a handheld solitaire game distract me from the pain. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, too—that’s another good thing. I like to quote Mother Teresa: "I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much."

I may not like it, but I can handle it. It’s just a matter of staying optimistic.

My husband, Malcolm, and I have always been positive people. Together, we try to find humor in every single day. Depending on the situation, it may not be your first response, but you have to learn to laugh. Now, as Malcolm’s starting to deal with dementia, I remind him to look at it as something new to laugh at. Or if you’re someone who enjoys learning new things, you get to learn some things all over again. And that’s pretty good, too.

Yes, I have rheumatoid arthritis, but we’re all dealing with our own personal crises.

I don’t have a secret to help others stay positive—but I do practice two activities that I find rewarding. I love to hug—I’m a hugger. I also find myself speaking to strangers often. You might be the only one who speaks to that person all day; you might be the only one who smiles at that person. There’s something so uplifting about that—I can say to myself, "Today, I made a difference."

Some people don’t know how to find the positives. We all know a few complete downers who feel nothing ever goes right in their world. And it’s not true. Most days a lot of things go right. We just don’t take the time to notice when they do.

Penny Smith lives in Kennesaw, Georgia, with her husband, Malcolm, who receives his fair share of hugs.

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Medical Reviewers: William Lloyd, MD Last Review Date: Feb 7, 2014

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