You may feel a range of emotions after being diagnosed with JIA. Discover some strategies to help you cope with JIA.
• It is common to feel alone after a JIA diagnosis, but many young people have JIA just like you.
• You may feel a mix of emotions after being diagnosed with JIA. Even after learning to cope with JIA, there may be times when you have these same feelings again.
• It’s healthy to talk about your feelings with a person you trust.
How did you feel when you first learned that you had JIA? Many young people and their families go through a period at first when they feel sad. Did you feel this way? Were you shocked? Did you try to deny that you had JIA? Did you feel worried and angry? Did you feel like you somehow caused the JIA? Many people with JIA feel this way.
Over time, you will learn ways to cope and get on with life. However, there may be times when you have these same feelings again. This is most likely to happen when you are having a flare.
Remember: You are not alone
Do you ever feel like you are the only one with JIA? This is a common feeling. However, many young people have JIA just like you.
Strategies to cope with JIA
Here are a few ways to help you cope with JIA. You can add these to your list of coping strategies.
Tip 1: Have confidence in the future
Young people with JIA often worry about the future.
It’s normal to be afraid of new experiences. Imagine moving to a new home. At first you wonder if you’ll make new friends, or adjust to a new school. Eventually you get used to your new home. In the same way, you’ll learn to feel more “at home” with JIA.
One way to control your fears of JIA is to find out more about it. You will learn lots about JIA in this program. You can also find out information by asking your doctor or other members of the health-care team.
Here are some questions you can ask:
• What symptoms can I expect?
• What treatment is best for me?
• What are the common side effects of my medications?
• What kinds of exercise can I do?
• What can I do to make school easier?
You can also read about JIA through books or online. Be careful with Internet sites though, as not all of them provide accurate information. There is a list of reliable websites and books you can read in the Resources section.
Try contacting local and national organisations involved in JIA, such as Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA www.arthritiswa.org.au. By educating yourself, you can take an active role in managing your health.
Tip 2: Think positive
Focus on all the things that you can do. This is a healthy thinking habit and can help you live your life to its fullest.
On the other hand, focusing on all the things that you cannot do because of JIA is unhelpful and makes it harder for you to do the things you want to. It can leave you feeling down. It can make you pull back from social and other fun activities.
Tip 3: Know your limits
Learn how hard you can push yourself and how far your body can go without worsening of your symptoms. Knowing the patterns of JIA will help you recognise your limits. For example, maybe you get tired in the late afternoon and need a rest after school. Eventually you will become familiar with your body’s needs and will know what you should or should not do. Or decide to do activities knowing that your symptoms may increase; however, this may be fine if it is an activity that is really important to you.
Once you know your limits, you can learn to work with them and still have fun. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists can be especially helpful in providing advice in this area.
Tip 4: Pursue new and enjoyable activities
Find some activities that you are good at. Figure out what your strengths and talents are, like singing, dancing, acting, drawing or writing. Get involved in activities that help you explore your interests. Show off a little! When you focus on what you can do, you’ll have a better chance of staying positive. It will be easier to cope when things don’t go your way.
Tip 5: Express your feelings
No matter what others may say, you’re going through a lot. You have the right to feel a mix of emotions – anger, sadness, fear, frustration and more. You’ll also experience a sense of triumph and accomplishment as you successfully manage JIA or achieve your personal goals. This is all normal because having JIA can be an emotional roller-coaster ride.
Just remember not to put your painful feelings aside. Try not to act as if your feelings don’t exist or bottle them up until you feel like you might explode. It’s healthy to talk about your feelings with a parent, sibling, friend, teacher, doctor, clergy member or anyone else you trust.