Jessica says she won’t be sharing it with her employer anytime soon. “I don’t want them to think that this is a disability,” she says, adding that when she needs to see her rheumatologist she tells work only that she’s going to a doctor’s appointment. “On a day-to-day basis I am pretty good. Sometimes it’s hard to grip things first thing in the morning. But it’s not debilitating – knock on wood, because I know that could change at any time.”

An expert says: As Jessica has discovered, keeping quiet can put a strain on relationships when a loved one has differing opinions about whom to tell. There can indeed be relationship implications should you decide to not tell family or friends who, if they someday do learn of your story, wonder why you didn’t say something sooner. “They may ask, ‘Why did you wait so long? Don’t you trust me?’” Lumley says.

While she may not be as forthcoming as her mother wishes her to be, Jessica has acknowledged that she shares with those closest to her, which is a smart move. Jessica could deepen her relationships if she pushed herself a bit out of her comfort zone, says Lumley, who believes people on average tend to do more hiding than they should.

“Challenge your fears,” he says. You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised that you’re accepted and loved just the way you are.”
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals in this story.