It’s been 18 months since I developed Psoriatic Arthritis and 14 months since my diagnosis. I don’t think I knew anybody who had arthritis. I didn’t really understand what it was. What it is. I didn’t know that people my age, and a lot younger could be affected so terrible by this terrible condition.
I had nobody to turn to. Nobody to ask advice. Nobody who I could relate to. I had a terrible medical team who threw a few leaflets my way and expected that to be sufficient. I feel very much that in the beginning I had to make it up as I went along, with varying degrees of success.
I eventually discovered a whole community of people who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities through Instagram. Though these people are not directly in my life I take a lot of strength in knowing that there are others out there like me. But my experience of feeling lost in this world of chronic illness was what led me to blogging. Especially when it comes to Psoriatic Arthritis, which is so poorly understood or even known about.
So in todays blog post I’m going to list the 5 main things that I wish I had been told when I was newly diagnosed. I hope that some of you can relate and I’d love to know what you wish you’d been told when you were first diagnosed with your chronic illness.
- You will feel overwhelming grief
This one was a hard one to get my head around. The first few weeks after my diagnosis I couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking about all the things I could no longer do. I couldn’t run, which was my favourite thing. I couldn’t go out dancing. I couldn’t do the things that made me happy. The things that made me, me. They were gone The old me was gone. All I could think about was the things I probably could never do again. The things that I was going to do in the future that I would no longer be able to do. Thinking about things that I’d never even considered doing but now I couldn’t do them it destroyed me. I grieved. For a very very long time. For who I was. For my old body. The Rebecca pre-diagnosis. She’s gone. She’s never coming back. I still find that hard to come to terms with even now. But the grief for your body and your life pre-diagnosis is perfectly normal. But never spoken about. I have never heard any kind of health professional mention it. But it was the first emotion I ever went through. An emotion I’m still going through. But what I have learnt though is that the grief doesn’t have to be all negative. The process enables me to accept who I am now. Saying goodbye to who I was and hello to who I am now. My new life. My new body. The new Rebecca. So if you feel grief, don’t beat yourself up by thinking you shouldn’t feel these things. Feel it. Live it. Cry it out. Scream it out. But say hello to the new you, give yourself a big hug and know that you’re still the same person you were before.
- You will feel sad
Similar to the feeling of grief, you’re likely to feel sad and again, this is perfectly fine!! I spent an entire year feeling sad before I could admit it. I called it my ‘situational sadness’. I was sad because of the situation I found myself in. Sore, stiff, off work, stuck in bed, depressed. I tried to fight it for so long. I thought I was supposed to just get on with things as they were before. It never occurred to me that I was ok to be sad because I had arthritis. But of course I was! It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to say you’re not as happy as you were before. It’s ok to admit this to not only yourself but other people! Sadness isn’t a weakness and ultimately, sadness will pass. If you want to cry, cry. Sometimes that release of emotions through crying is all you need to feel better.
- Painkillers will be your best friend
I never knew I could hurt so much. I didn’t know what pain was. Doctors and specialists will talk to you about what medication to take but they don’t tell you that sometimes you’ll be in so much pain you can’t even get out of bed to go to the toilet. I felt like I had to just suck it up and get on with it. I was so busy thinking about the pain and the limitations it was giving me it didn’t always occur to me to take painkillers. But you know what? PAINKILLERS CAN BE AMAZING! Don’t feel guilty for taking them. Don’t think that they make you weak. Don’t think that you shouldn’t be taking them and that you should try and be brave and fight through it. Take them painkillers. Keep some with you at all time because you never know when you might need them. Painkillers will become your best friend. Love them and they’ll love and help you back.
- People will annoy you
I could make a whole blog post just about these people. I may well go on to do so. Be prepared to hear “you’re too young for arthritis” “it could be worse” and “ahh I’m sure it’s not really as bad as you say”. I’m not too young, it’s already pretty bad and actually, I only tell you about the tip of the iceberg. These people will annoy you. You know who else will annoy you? People who know what’s caused your condition and know just what can cure you. “It’s because you drink milk, become vegan and you’ll be cured!” “I sell products through my
pyramid schemebusiness that will cure you” “Have you tried taking a supplement for joints? I had a sore knee once and since I started taking these tablets it hasn’t come back”. Whilst I’m sure a lot of these people do mean well, it really annoys me. I don’t care if your friend ‘has it worse than me’, you don’t know my situation. Also, I’m going to eat and drink whatever the hell I like. NOTHING caused this. NOTHING will ‘cure’ this. Learn to smile at these people and give them some kind of sassy, but polite response.
- You will be ok
That’s right, you will be! It might not feel like when you’ve just been diagnosed, and there’s no real telling how long it will take for you to get there as everybody is different, BUT YOU WILL BE OK. You will smile again. You will enjoy life. You will laugh and love and have fun. You might be a bit slower than you were but the good times will return. Embrace the new you. You’re ok.