What is it like living with rheumatoid arthritis at 33, after being diagnosed at age 29? There are so many ways to answer this question, but let’s start with this: I never saw it coming. I was a new mother — actually, a newly single mother — of a little boy when I got diagnosed with RA. Only older adults got arthritis, right?
Wrong. So wrong. When my diagnosis of RA hit, I was having so much fatigue and joint pain I couldn’t even buckle my son into his car seat or do daily chores. I was going through bad postpartum depression that I’m sure was making my RA worse and vice versa. Before I knew it, my ability to work full time as an esthetician slipped out of my progressively arthritic hands.
I became a full-fledged member of a club I didn’t know existed and didn’t want to join: the world of people living with chronic inflammatory illness. This world means adjusting to medication after medication. It involves figuring out if what you feel is a side effect of your treatment versus a symptom of your disease or a comorbidity that comes with it. It includes hours in waiting rooms and appointments with health care professionals and specialists I’d never heard of before. It means not knowing how to explain RA to people who don’t have it and know nothing about.
The goal in all of this, of course, is to try to find some relief and regain a normal life somehow. But I’ve now realized that there is no such thing as normal.