Many people run into trouble with in-laws not getting it, but my in-laws all understand since almost all of the females have been touched by RA or fibro, etc. My guys are great about understanding and not making me feel feel bad... I still do but that's just normal.
Mary and Mom both understand because they both live it. Some friends do try to protect me from myself when I am overdoing it or am considering doing something that would not be a great idea. Some friends and family just do not get it though. And there's nothing I can do to make them get it sadly.
I've written a piece about what RA is like but that doesn't even help some people understand. I was once told that what I wrote was "too negative" and "too dark", but unfortunately that's what RA and other chronic illnesses are at times: dark and negative. That's not to say there aren't light and happy times. For many of us, those times are what keep us going during the dark times. And in all honesty, there are times the positive far outweighs the negative, and it is precisely those times that keep us going during the negative times. Having had a pretty rough period, I know that if not for those positive times during that rough period, as well as the prayers and good thoughts of people all over the world that I'd not have done as well as I did.
No one likes to be limited. But, in all the years of living with RA, one thing I've learned is to do my best to focus rather on what I CAN do than what I cannot do or what I am limited in doing. That lesson was brought home to me at the nursing home. Any progress was celebrated. And with Jim, the word "set-back" was not in his vocabulary it seems. There were times I felt a flare was a set-back, but not Jim. He kept telling me that IF I went back in the hospital or did something incredibly dumb (my term) and got injured then I could say that was a set-back. But he was right (as he usually is!) and something that is (or should be) a normal and expected part of a disease process happening is NOT a true set-back and therefore should be viewed as just part of living with a chronic illness.