I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia after months of joint pain and stiffness, and years of fatigue and weakness. I was immensely relieved that my symptoms were not “all in my head,” and my struggles finally felt validated. But I was also confused
At the age of 24, RA was one of the last things I thought my condition would be when I finally met with a rheumatologist— up until then, I had wrongly assumed arthritis was only for the elderly. I also didn’t have the tell tale joint swelling that is trademark for the illness, so I began to doubt whether my diagnosis was correct despite my bloodwork indicating that it was
I have educated myself about arthritis and disability as a whole. Learning about arthritis opened the gateway to slowly dispelling the ableism and prejudice I had subconsciously absorbed over the course of my life. Having become disabled over a short period of time put into perspective what being disabled really means — rather than it being a tragedy that has forever incapacitated me, I now view my disability as a source of strength and compassion. I see my disability not as a drag on society, but as a strong argument for improving both physical and societal infrastructure to make them more equitable, accessible, and inclusive.
Having RA and fibro means I need to consider every aspect of my daily life through the lens of self-care and self-respect. I have to be careful of how I move my body to avoid putting strain on myself. I have to let myself rest when I get worn down. I have to eat and drink healthier to reduce inflammation. I have to wear comfortable and loose clothing when my skin gets overtly sensitive. I have to rely on mobility aids when I am stiff and achy. My conditions now encourage me to get the care and support that I deserve, and have gifted me an enthusiasm for connecting with other disabled peoples to learn from and empathize with. There have been so many adjustments to make to my life, but all of them are ones that force me to respect my body and its needs, both new and old. Being disabled is by no means always sunshine and rainbows, but it does not mean that it always has to be gloom and doom, either.
Arthr encompasses that same value by providing ergonomic tools that allow those with arthritis a better quality of life when faced with challenges most others wouldn’t even consider. Taking input from people who actually have arthritis and properly implementing our thoughts and ideas are crucial to designing products that effectively help us in our day to day lives. Sharing our diverse stories helps bring awareness to our experiences, struggles, and victories to normalize and humanize us.
I am forever grateful to the arthritis community and broader disability community for educating and supporting me through such a dynamic and uncertain time in my life. My biggest hope is that I can give back through advocacy and awareness going forward.