The Unspoken Death 

Heads up, this post covers suicide and may cause some distress. There are contact details for support agencies at the bottom of this page. Latest figures I could find suggest more than one in ten suicides are related to chronic illness, so this is something we really need to talk more openly about. 

Suicide has sadly touched me closely as I lost my beautiful sister Mary to it nearly ten years ago. I miss her every day. But ​for the first time on my blog the words below are not mine.

An online RA friend posted these words in our private support group this evening, and they are powerful and moving. I have her permission to share, and she has my promise to remain anonymous. 

“Today I had to do something that I never dreamed I would. I had to go to a friend’s wake. My friend had other health issues which she was dealing really well with but was diagnosed with RA  a couple years ago. 

Her RA was progressively getting worse,  I had talked to recently and I thought I had convinced her to join our group for support. However she tragically took her own life this week. 

She left a note and the main gist was that RA had turned her into a person that she didn’t like anymore. She felt like she was more of a hindrance. She did not want to go into a wheelchair. She did not want to put any pressure on anyone in her family because she felt RA  was her problem to deal with. She was ashamed of the condition that her body was in. She was ashamed of the fact that she was always so tired and that she had to cancel family things because she just did not have the energy. 

Attending her wake hit me hard. I think of all of us that have RA know about all of the different feelings and emotions that we go through. Everything she mentioned in that letter I have felt at some time. The reason why I brought this to our group is to show that RA  is not only a physical disorder, it also affects us mentally. 

RA  turns your life upside-down, inside-out,  and sideways. But for me this is no reason to take your life over this disease. To me that means the disease won.  

I’m putting this out to the group so when you get depressed or you’re having a bad day or even having these thoughts please please reach out. Tell someone that you need help because you are in a bad spot emotionally. There will be many people that will help. I was always told when you have a problem and you share it with another person your problem is cut in half. 

This is a subject that we all need to talk about. The suicide rate among chronically ill people like us is very high. Let’s not allow that statistic to continue. I can tell you from seeing it right up in my face and also seeing the grief of her children and her husband the damage done by my friend taking her life is worse than having Rheumatoid Disease. 

So this has opened my eyes and I’m encouraging us all to reach out and  asking people who say they are having a bad day what’s going on, and how you can help. I have been part of this group I think 3 or 4 years now. I have developed friendships with a bunch of you and I truly do care. You guys have become my family. 

For those of you that are new or that sit in the background and read the posts, please introduce yourself, talk to us, let us get to know you. 

Most importantly if you are having thoughts of committing self-harm or suicide please put it out there. There is always someone always online. I do not want to lose another friend because he or she thought they were all alone and the only way out was to commit suicide.”

Contact details for confidential support:

UK – The Samaritans 

US – National Suicide Prevention Line 

Canada – The Lifeline provides a list of contact details for individual states, a national helpline is planned for later this year 

Australia – Lifeline Crisis Support & Suicide Prevention 

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RA – My Story… 

​Talk Health, the patient voice online asked for responses to a questionnaire recently, which I duly sent in. As today is Rheumatoid Awareness Day I figured it was a good time to share my story here too.  

1. Personal details – I’m keeping those ☺️
2. Tell us about you and your condition? I’m 47, happily single and two years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Disease. Three months later I had to sign off sick from work due to daily pain and fatigue, and although I’d love to return to employment at present I consider myself medically retired. Shortly after diagnosis I started sharing my story through my blog, Singlerheum,  and have been delighted to have had over 9000 views. The online spoonie community is an amazing support network that I’m proud to be a part of. I’ve since been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, DDD and Sjorgens, all  of which are commonly linked with RD. 

3. What treatment or therapy do you use? I’m on biologic medication for my RD, plus a number of other medications daily including anti depressants, pain relief, and meds for hypertension, Factor V Leiden and IBS.

Alongside these I have found more holistic practices helpful including conscious breathing, meditation and chanting as well as an electric under blanket, heating pads,  voltarol gel and compression gloves. 

4. What impact has it made on your life?  This could be a book! In more or less the right chronological order I’ve had to face up to daily

  • constant pain
  • fatigue that knocks you off your feet
  • losing my job
  • losing my house 
  • being officially homeless for three months
  • having major anxiety attacks
  • worsening of my depression. 

Becoming physically disabled, needing crutches to walk and a mobility scooter,  a raised toilet seat, a shower chair, a bed  rail,  a raised sofa and grab rails outside my front door.  

Not being able to wash or dress myself some days, sleeping binges of up to 18 hours and conversely insomnia. Loss of an evening social life, it’s normally pyjamas by 6pm. Loss of a friend who felt I was ‘sick & needy’.  Missing friends weddings and cancelling my own birthday due to fatigue and RD flares. 

5. Is adherence (sticking to your treatment regime) a challenge? Not at all, it’s a pain, but a manageable one most days. Alarm for morning tablets,  eye drops and mouth spray. Fybogel powder drink an hour later.  Alarm for evening tablets,  night eye gel, Lax powder drink.  Alarm every two weeks for biologic injection.  

Then self managing pain meds as needed,  using Paracetamol, Tramadol, and Hydrocodone for breakthrough pain. It would be a real struggle to  manage around working or a family, but living alone means my life can be very simple, it’s become a necessity. 

6. What side effects (if any) do you have to manage? Headaches, dry skin, dry eyes and mouth,  bowel pain and issues, GERD. 

7. Are you getting enough information about the meds that you take? Yes, but mainly because I self educate. 

8. Are you looking for an improved treatment? I’m looking for a cure!  But in the meantime an effective treatment would be great, I’m on my fifth RD med with no experienced improvement so far. 

9. Do you think that the pharma industry listens to you? Honestly? I don’t think they care. I’d love to be proved wrong. Simple lack of thought given to containers and packaging alone causes millions of patients hardship just to open their meds. Certainly as both an active patient and Advocate with RD I’ve never been asked a question by the pharma industry. 

However I have recently signed up for a new med packaging trial this year, so we’ll see! 

10. How would you like to see communication with drug manufacturers improved? I don’t think there is any. Certainly here in the UK you are prescribed a med and you take it. You have no say in brand, manufacturer, packaging etc. 

I would love to see more patient friendly packaging and plain English information  leaflets. I’d love to see customer service advice lines on packaging. I’d love to see drug manufacturers with patient friendly Facebook pages to encourage open and unsolicited communication. 

11. Do you remain hopeful? Yes. Despite worsening mobility and physical health, and thanks in no small part to a fabulous GP and some great private therapy I’m working on gratitude for the good in my life and achieving peace. Acceptance of my multiple diagnosis’ has certainly gone a long way towards that. So yes, I am in pain daily, fatigued daily, limited  to what I can do by how I feel daily, but I have the support and love of friends and family as well as the online RD community and that keeps me moving forwards each day!