The truth about living with Rheumatoid Arthritis


Rheumatoid Arthritis and work and being ‘unemployable’

The keyboard (#18/365)A few weeks ago my employment services officer declared me unemployable and closed my file. This didn’t help my current feelings of depression!  Her organisation exists entirely to place disabled people into suitable employment.  While I would have thought that I would be a relatively easy case to manage, with some advocacy and support from them, apparently not!

I know my current physical condition is not good.  I have 4-5 knockdown days a week.  My definition of a knockdown day is that I achieve nothing, except what my kids need.  I have been going to the gym once or twice a week, and often leave because I can’t continue the class.  My pain levels are high, so I take a lot of oxycodone.  Slow release and immediate release.  My doctor is not happy about how much I am taking, but, I don’t feel I have a choice. I can’t function without it.

Because I am drug affected (slow reaction times, reduced alertness) I don’t want to drive my car. This only adds to my isolation.   I really appreciate the few friends who come to visit me.

I am repeatedly told how great I look.

Emotionally I am dealing with bouts of depression.  Being declared unemployable did not help.  This morning I saw this link about why people with rheumatoid are often forced out of the workforce.

When RA makes work unworkable

It all makes perfect sense, but it’s not so simple.  It doesn’t mention the impact of not working.  Not just the financial aspects, but the isolation.  The lack of a ‘purpose’.  Even the lack of a topic of small talk.  The lack of a place to connect with others and make small talk!

I joke that I just want a job so that I can hate it, just like everyone else.  But really I just want to be normal.  There are days where you don’t want to go to work, sure.  But work contributes to your well being in so many ways.  I want to have a future.  I want to improve my financial situation.  I want to have a normal life.  I want to have work friends, and work functions.  I want to achieve something with my time.

One of my friends suggested I clean houses for a living.  I told him I can barely keep my own house clean. He responded that it’s not hard work.  And he has arthritis in his shoulder and he manages just fine.  Normally I would let that go, but this time I told him:

‘Imagine that pain in ALL of your joints. Then try to clean a house.’

He gave me the ‘eye roll’.  I don’t think we’ll have coffee anymore.  I don’t need that attitude.  As I said, I am dealing with some depression.  People either help or hurt. It is that black and white when you are depressed.  Right now I am putting some space into that friendship.

But I digress.

I am officially unemployable.  I am now at the stage where I need to apply for my Total and Permananent Disability Insurance.  I’m told this is a long, drawn out process.  I will have to prove my disability, which will be hard because I have no bone erosions visible on x-ray (or I didn’t a year ago) and my blood work is normal.

Nuclear bone scans and ultrasound do not count.  Cartilage damage caused by my RA does not count.  My rheumatologist refers to it as ‘secondary osteoarthritis’.  The constant inflammation of uncontrolled, active Rheumatoid arthritis accelerates cartilage damage.  So this is quite clearly damage from Rheumatoid Arthritis, as far as I’m concerned.  But all the insurance company sees is ‘osteoarthritis’ which is not good enough for them.  They need bone erosions to prove rheumatoid arthritis.

The process will take about a year.  I am not hopeful, but I don’t have a choice. And the year will pass anyway.