"If You Have Arthritis, How Can You Walk?"

"If you actually have arthritis, doesn't it hurt to walk?"

That was how the conversation went. I didn't know it at the time, but I had opened up a Pandora's box.

Someone ( I'm not disclosing this persons name or relation to me) had just asked me about having arthritis: They heard me mentioning it to someone else. I'm usually honest about my diagnosis, so I told them I live with arthritis caused by the immune system. They asked how I deal with it, so I told them I take immunosuppressants and try to stay active. This person is very pushy and nosy, and I suspect a bit overdramatic. They continued to question me, as if making me prove something. They said, "so the pain isn't all the time?" And I said, "No, it's constant."

I was asked, "but if you actually have arthritis, doesn't it hurt to walk?" And I said, "Yes."

"Then why...?"

"Because either I walk or I live in a wheelchair."

This person questioned my own disease. Just because I'm not in a wheelchair. This person became increasingly aggravated and suspicious as they pressed me for questions. I ended it promptly after them insisting if I had arthritis, I shouldn't be able to walk.

I wish it ended there. I repeatedly had to see this person. Although they never pressed me for more questions, something never seemed quite right. Like when this person informed the group I was speaking with that they weren't feeling very good and then proceeded to eat a handful of vitamins and drink a glass of those immune system boosters. Staring right at me.  They then santized their hands ten times in five minutes. And when someone had a headache, that person suggested it may be a migraine caused by gluten intolerance and continued to inform everyone that gluten is responsible for a lot of 'immune system disabilities.' And stared at me the entire time they explained.

Another time, they really made a statement. This person explained they had a headache to whoever would listen. When this person had to sit in the same room as me, they proceeded to pull a surgical mask and wore it. When they handled some papers from me, they wore rubber gloves. Seriously?

I've had gym teachers who relentlessly tore me down for my deformities, inability to preform and poor performance in gentle activities. I've had teachers insist I would grow up to become addicted to drugs because I required constant injections and looked horrible (from Methotrexate). I've been given dirty looks for needed a wheelchair when I look fine. There have been numerous times people have picked on me for being chronically ill. But nothing that has made me laugh so much.

Even though I am well aware this person is picking on me, I really can't help but laugh. Someone here might even say this person is very concerned for my well being, but you know when someone is helping and when someone is just being silly. They're being silly and it's made them very made that I've never looked insulted.

Sometimes I wonder if this is really ignorance, or just a severe case of jealousy. From a person well over twice my age.


  1. This was a well-written post about outsiders that have no idea about our disease. Like you I tend to laugh off the ignorance of others, but it eats at me inside. Their comments and subtle hints hurt and I find myself ranting about it to my friends. I really enjoyed reading this because I've heard similar things. I've had friends leave me because they thought I was faking chronic pain to get attention. It hurts and I wish people knew what they were talking about or how much they are going to impact me.

    I have a blog as well, not entirely focused on my life with arthritis but I do post health updates and rants. You can find it at: www.elizamcfarlish.weebly.com

    Have a super, fantastic, awesome, splendid, amazing day!
    ~Eliza McFarlish


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