Quick disclaimer: I don't mean to speak for all people everywhere with RA. I'm just drawing on how it's affected me personally. Different people have different experiences.
I also don't want to come across as like "OH MY GOSH MY LIFE IS A FAILLLLLLL" because that's silly and that pity party is not worth the time or the effort. :-) I think sometimes, though, people are interested in knowing what it's like living on a day-to-day basis with something like this. I know I personally like hearing stories from people whose life is different from mine. It helps me understand them (and humanity as a whole) better. So here goes.
I think one of the things that people don't realize about my dealing with arthritis is that it's not just about the pain. Ultimately, I can push past the pain if I need to. Adrenaline for Beauty and the Beast got me through the dance numbers. Looming deadlines get me through typing up long papers.
But it's exhausting.
When I have a flare-up, every action takes about three times the amount of steps it used to. Removing my coat is an arduous process. I'm constantly switching tactics as I try to wiggle myself out of it attempting not to aggravate a joint. (My internal monologue is something like: "OK, that's about as far as I can move my shoulder, let's try to pull the jacket sleeve down with my other hand. OK, now I think I can wiggle my shoulder a bit more and maybe the sleeve will scoot down. All right... Almost... Almost... I just need to pull my whole arm back a little bit and I think that should do it... OK, brace yourself, this is going to hurt. One... two... GO! Oh, ouch. But phew. That's one sleeve done.")
Not only is it physically exhausting, but it's mentally exhausting. I have to think about everything you do, otherwise I suddenly find I've moved my knee in a direction it didn't want to go today. It's like walking across thin ice versus walking across a basketball court. The mental concentration involved in navigating the first one safely means that when you finally get across, you just want to lie down and rest for awhile.
I sleep a lot more when I have arthritis flare-ups. My mind and body get overloaded as I work to protect myself. So, um, in silly lame conclusion: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...