I was recently approached at work by a co-worker whose daughter had just been diagnosed with RA. She is 20 and they have already been to a few visits with a local rheumatologist. The meds are helping some but she is still terribly depressed over it and feels her life is over. I remember feeling that very same thing after my diagnosis 9+ years ago. She asked if I would be willing to speak with her daughter and I have corresponded by email with her. I wished that the rheumatologist would go over this with new patients, sort of like an introduction to life with RA for all new patients. It wouldn't have to be a long meeting but it would also give new patients a chance to talk with other new patients and let them know they aren't in this alone. Below is a part of one email I sent her.
It's a scary time right after your diagnosis, you have many unanswered questions and many doubts about your future. It's good the medicine is working, give it time. What works for one person may not work for you so don't worry if you have to change meds, this is pretty common. It takes about 6 months to see the full effects after you start or change meds.
This will probably be one of the hardest adjustments for you to make at your age … you cannot care what anyone else thinks. You have to take care of yourself and get by however you can. Use all resources you can find to learn all you can about RA. No one else is going to take care of you, you are going to be your own best advocate for your long term health care. At first I tried to keep my RA a secret from everyone but soon saw it as an opportunity to educate others. Most people are receptive to learning, they just don't know anything about RA. I know I didn't before my diagnosis.
It's important that you understand your life is not over. I thought that at first also. Yes, your life will change but you have to learn to change with it. You will soon learn when you can push yourself and get away with it and when you just need some down time to rest. The worst thing for me (most days) is the fatigue. I don't ever feel "rested" after 7, 8, even 10 hours of sleep. Every day I wake up, I am just as exhausted as I was when I went to bed. It has been 9+ years since I was diagnosed and I still work full time, ride a dirt bike and an adventure bike and work out when I can. Don't ever give up!
Our winter sucks this year. Instead of our normal 50-60 degree days, we have been hammered with 20-40 degree days with rain, sleet and snow going back to four days before Christmas. I have only rode one time since December 21st and that was just this past Friday night to work. It was 70 Friday with the over night temp just dropping to 55 so I took advantage of it and rode an extra 45 miles on the way home Saturday morning. Not what I like to ride but it felt good to be back on the bike even for a short ride.