I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Psychiatrist, best selling author and television commentator, Dr. Gail Saltz on how to plan your Valentines day celebration when you or a loved one suffers from rheumatoid arthritis or other chronic illness.
Dr. Saltz is a regular contributor on The Today Show, writes a weekly Relationship column for MSNBC and has been a guest on programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC'S The View, Dateline and 20/20 to name a few.
Candace Rose: What is rheumatoid arthritis and who does this chronic illness affect?
Dr. Gail Saltz: "Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own joints and joint lining so that you end up with pain potentially, sometimes disfigurement of a joint, overall chronic fatigue and this usually affects women more frequently than men. But both sexes and people in their 30's and 40's are commonly when it's first diagnosed, so we're talking about relatively young people in the prime of their life."
CR: And why is that?
GS: "You know no one understands exactly why this autoimmune disease does what it does when it does it but the important point is frankly that you get treatment, that you go see a doctor, if this is what's going on and that you really educate yourself because of course as you can understand when you have chronic pain, when you have things that affect the way your body looks, when you are tired, this can affect many different aspects of your life and it can be a real issue for people with rheumatoid arthritis."
CR: How is a holiday such as Valentines day different for those with a chronic illness or for those who care for them?
GS: "Well, it's certainly hard enough to deal with Valentines day and all the expectations of that for anybody who's even not dealing with something but somebody who has something like rheumatoid arthritis has to really think about planning in advance and communicating with their partner about what's going to work for the two of them. So for instance maybe the candlelight dinner isn't going to be the best idea because you have pain later in the day, you're tired at the end of the day, maybe it's going to be a candlelight brunch. Planning, talking about it and being flexible because you never know on a certain day when something isn't going well. It doesn't matter if it's the 14th or it's the 15th as long as you celebrate the concept."
CR: Do you have any recommendations for those who are single and those with significant others, to make the day special?
GS: "I do. I think that if you don't have somebody in your life and this does matter to you, find other people- friends, family who are feeling similarly and plan something fun to do with them. You can go out with a bunch of girlfriends or go out with the guys and celebrate your singleness or you can decide that which by the way can be tremendous fun. But you could also decide that this is what's going to launch you into taking a look again. Sometimes people with rheumatoid arthritis feel worried, they feel uncomfortable about how others will see them and they be reticent, but you could use this opportunity to say you know what, I'm going to make a date, whether you're going to do that via the internet, maybe you're going to ask a friend to set you up or maybe you're going to have a date just to get back out there and feel less self conscious. I would also tell you that Valentines day is a great opportunity to really educate yourself about these issue of dating, of intimacy.
I've just done a new episode for an online talk show at a website called newwayra.com and I talk with women who have rheumatoid arthritis about just this, like how do you navigate dating, when do you tell someone that you have this, how soon into it and how do you do that when you have rheumatoid arthritis?"
CR: Where can readers go for more information?
GS: "The website is www.newwayra.com, not only will my episode be there that they have access to all the time but other episodes that talk about style, how to dress yourself if you feel self conscious, how to deal with nutrition, and frankly a who panoply of how do you help yourself, how do you do your best when you're dealing with rheumatoid arthritis."