Managing Arthritis

5 lessons arthritis taught me

Photo of Carla Heggie

Nothing can quite prepare anyone for living with arthritis. And while every arthritis journey is different, there is sometimes a lot to learn from listening to those with lots of experience.

We recently asked Carla Heggie, from Nova Scotia, to share the lessons she's learned over the course of her almost 60-year journey with arthritis. Whether you're newly diagnosed or diagnosed decades ago, we think they'll help you flourish.

1. Be patient

Arthritis can be frustrating. Some days it might feel like things are going your way, then suddenly they quickly change for the worse. Learning to embrace the ever-changing state of your arthritis without losing hope is an art form.

Be kind to yourself and give yourself the time to learn and heal. It may take a while to get there, but it's key.
And remember, actively manage your disease and try to stay positive. Commend yourself for that.

2. Listen to your body

It might not be possible to do everything you used to, but it should be possible to do the things you love, differently. It could mean changing your diet to include more anti-inflammatory foods.
This can also apply to daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning or gardening. Don't be afraid to use assistive devices and tools to help yourself.

For the longest time, I wanted nothing to do with walking canes. But if you need one, you need one. So, I decided to own it, and now I only use stylish ones!

Knowing and acknowledging your limits is especially important.

3. Ask for help

You really don't have to do it all alone.

Knowing what you can and cannot do is useful to identify what you will need support with.

It might be tough at first but being open about what is challenging for you and reaching out to friends and family for their physical and emotional support will prove helpful in the long run. This is not a weakness on your part.
As well, finding a support group of people that can understand what you are going through can make a world of difference.

Most importantly, don't try to prove anything to the detriment of your own health. Nobody wins in this scenario.

4. Laugh

Cliché? Absolutely. But also, very true!

Find time for the things that make you laugh. Laughing releases endorphins which, in addition to taking your mind off the pain, have anti-inflammatory benefits.

And don't be afraid to laugh at yourself! Sometimes, it can lighten your day.

5. Medicate and meditate

It might take time for your medical team to find the right treatments for you, but it's a crucial process you must commit yourself to. Monitor your symptoms, moods, and the side-effects you experience until medication improves your physical well-being. Treatments may change over the years - it's an on-going journey with your medical team.

You may also wish to explore meditation or other complementary therapies to help treat your arthritis and manage your pain.

Remember, life is meant to be lived.