Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible chronic illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different - and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren't alone!
Location: Austin, TX
Diagnoses: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Age at Diagnoses: 21
How are you currently treating your conditions?
Currently I am taking Humira, which fortunately has done wonders for me. I also remain very active. I exercise a couple times a week. I am also an active stepmom and teach special education to elementary students.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
I think the biggest challenge for me was the initial depression I experienced. I was a young vibrant person who fairly quickly had incredible pain and challenges. I did not trust my own body anymore. I mean come on?!?! Whose body attacks themselves internally? It sounded crazy to me.
Unfortunately my means of dealing with this was to ignore it, I think I hoped it would just all go away. I pushed through the unbelievable pain, sometimes it would take me 45 minutes just to get dressed in the morning. I would take up to 12 Aleve a day just to get through. I was only 25. Overtime my hands became incredibly deformed. The joints turned and curled, I became embarrassed I had ignored the problem and not taken care of myself.
Once I accepted my diagnosis and adopted a treatment plan that helped manage the pain and joint deterioration the emotional scarring began to heal. I began to see my diagnosis as a gift. I was given this because I could handle it. That is when I began to wonder how I could help others.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
There are many things people who see my hands are surprised I can do. I type, sew, bake, cook, make furniture, and of course create jewelry! I guess my only tip for managing tasks is if you really want to do it you will figure out a way. It may not be the way everyone else does, but you will still get to the same destination.
There are only two things I can’t do and that’s snap my fingers and high five, but I can always clap my hands and fist bump so everything is right in the world.
How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
Doing the things I love keeps me facing forward each day. I love to create! Once I realized I could still do the things I loved, that those “limitations” others had put on me or that I had put on myself did not actually exist, it opened life back up. I knew then the only boundaries on my abilities and happiness was my own attitude, I decided to never approach anything again with “I can’t” but rather “How can I?”
If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
Well first I would probably tell myself to stop being such a baby and accept a treatment plan, LOL.
Besides that I would let myself know that everything will be ok.
That with great struggle comes great reward. That the strength this disease will condition you for is enough to do and achieve anything you could ever want.
Every time you feel you are weak, every hurdle you have to overcome, every obstacle to your daily success is actually strength, tenacity, and endurance growing and building in your body and mind.
You control your own life; you’re the boss of you! Go Get It!
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