Beautiful Not Broken: The Art of Wearing Our Rheumatoid Arthritis Scars

Editor’s note: Trigger warning – this story briefly mentions self-harm and suicide.

To my RheumatoidArthritis.net family, I have to admit - for so many years I have felt broken, in pieces, and ashamed of my rheumatoid arthritis.

I have always thought there is nothing pretty about this disease. It has wreaked such havoc in my personal, work, social life, and health. It has caused much physical and emotional pain. Pain so unbearable that, at one point in my life, I attempted suicide.

Kintsugi: to repair with gold

In August 2020, I ran across an article on the website My Modern Met. The article discussed an art form called kintsugi. It is pronounced kin-SOO-gee. Kintsugi is a centuries-old Japanese art form whose focus is to fix broken objects such as pottery. The term kintsugi means, “kin” = golden, “sugi” = repair. It literally means “to repair with gold.”

It is unique in that the technique does not try to hide or camouflage the piece of the pottery that is broken. Instead, the process uses a special tree sap lacquer, dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This method of repair and art form pays tribute to the piece’s history, by bringing emphasis to its cracks. When I read that I was just blown away.

I thought to myself wow, “Just because it’s broken, we don’t throw it away?” A novel concept in our western culture.

Feeling broken due to RA

When I look back on my life with RA, I often felt like I was no longer useful in society. Yes, some of that was probably in my head. However, a large part of that was real. In our western culture young, shiny, and healthy are valued so heavily.

So, in my twenties, when that ideal was disrupted by my RA diagnosis, I did not know what to do. Honestly, most of the healthcare professionals had no idea how to handle or guide me through what I was going through. For most of the years of my disease, I had felt lonely and isolated in so many ways in every aspect of my life, always trying to hide my RA imperfections.

Embracing scars caused by RA

After many years of therapy, and having a relationship with the Lord, I am in a much better place mentally with dealing with my RA scars. I, like the article, am able to express my life imperfections and brokenness through my writings for RheumatoidArthritis.net.

As the art form, I am choosing to highlight my RA scars, not hide them. I do not use lacquer and gold dust. However, instead, I use my words. My words are my gold.

Finding the beauty in imperfection

My challenge to anyone reading this article is, just like the beautiful artform of kintsugi, to choose to highlight your “RA scars” and not hide them. To my RheumatoidArthritis.net family, you may feel broken, but you are beautiful.

If you think about it, our community is like a kintsugi pottery wing at an art museum. Each one of us has unique “RA scars”. Let’s wear our scars like a beautiful piece of art. Each of our “scars” has history and experiences interwoven in them. Let’s display ourselves proudly and continue to advocate and teach our history and experiences to our society. You are not broken, you are beautiful.

You don't have to do it alone

For anyone struggling mentally please know you are not alone and there is help out there. I am living proof that each of our lives matters. Help is available 24 hours-a-day with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Also, visit their website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.