I've only been on discussion boards for the last few years, and before that, I was "on my own" as you were. Yes, more than one diagnosis is tough, but I still know that many others are worse off.
You're right that there's a difference between sympathy and empathy, and I think that's a big lesson having RA has taught me. This pain has made me very understanding toward others with any type of physical problem.
Speaking of pain, I sure hear you when you say that RA brought you to your knees in pain...it can just be horrific. I can remember my pain before the biologics were on the market, and it was just brutal...sometimes it hurt just lying in bed breathing. I remember my husband didn't want me to start on the Enbrel my rheumy recommended because of all of the potentially serious side effects, but I just couldn't hack it any more. (And like you, I have a fairly high pain tolerance.)
What do you take for your RA? I'm on Enbrel and methotrexate, plus a small dose of prednisone. I'd love to get off of all of this toxic stuff, and I'm exploring another option, but we'll see how it goes.
Well, it's late, so I'd better turn in--I've enjoyed chatting with you--keep posting!!