Recently I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. As a 25-year-old, this was hard news to take. It felt like my freedom and youth had been taken away from me. I went from being independent to having my mom do my hair, again. After being diagnosed, I was thankful that my family was there to support me the whole way. Here are ten ways to help a loved one deal with a disease.

1. Support

That is the number one thing that you can do for them. Without the support of people that love them, dealing with a life-changing disease is so much harder.

2. Know and understand their medication

Rheumatoid Arthritis is treated with lots of medications. One of them is methotrexate. I am thankful when my family understands what it is and the possible side effects. It is much easier to deal with knowing I could lose my hair when my family understands and reassures me that wigs can be fun.

3. Understand their fears

There are new fears all the time. Understand that they are constantly the "elephant in the room". To others, it might not seem like something of which to be scared, but it is to the person suffering. Respect their fears, even if you don't agree.

4. You can't tell how we feel by how we look

Most people that know me have no idea I am as sick as I am, that I am in pain. The people that are hurting the most might look perfectly healthy. Try to understand that our self-confidence and self-image has taken a huge hit and those are some of the hardest pains for people to see.

5. Don't tell them to be thankful for modern medicine

Yes, we know that we should be thankful but sometimes modern medicine is just as scary as the pain. We know that we should be thankful for the medicine, but we don't need the medicine to fix a disease we don't think we should have.

6. Learn to hold your tongue

Some people in my life thought it was "all in my head". Some were vocal about it and some kept it to themselves. I, eventually, stopped talking to the vocal ones about it and when I was diagnosed, a year later, the air was cleared. When people don't know what is going on or what is wrong it's easy to make wrong assumptions.

7. Speak up

I know it is totally opposite from the last one, but speak up and praise the little successes. I know when someone tells me how much happier and energized I seem, it makes me proud. When I am not hurting, I am able to get more done. Little acknowledgments make me feel like I can feel this great every day.

8. Share

If you have read something or have seen something that might help with my health, please tell me about it. Don't harass me, just mention it and please don't be offended if I don't try everything.

9. Don't blame everything in their life on the fact that I now have a disease

Yes, it changed my life and will cause a lot of new problems. However, not everything in my life is directly relates to my health. Maybe I am just tired and stressed. Life is hard whether or not you are sick.

10. Love them through it

Not only do emotions make you handle things differently, but when your body is in pain it affects your mood. Sometimes you aren't cranky or mean on purpose, but you are hurting and it is difficult. Learn to forget quickly. Remember that they are in pain and often don't realize the hurtful things they say.

Dealing with a life-long disease is a lonely and difficult thing. However, with the support of people that love you, a person gains a sense of empowerment. I know that I can deal with anything with the love of my family. Hard things and heavy burdens become lighter and easier when I have help from my family. I can do hard things because they love me.

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