Young and In...RA?
Rheumatoid Arthritis presents a unique set of challenges that most people cannot fathom. This autoimmune condition causes odd swelling, pain beyond reason and asymmetrical disability; not to mention, heightened risk of other illnesses.
However, being young with RA/RD presents an even more interesting dilemma: dealing with a chronic condition that ages your body while your mind stays fresh. Kids have such a beautiful outlook on life. They only know what is right in front of them. Young adults also deal with a similar situation. They are about to embark on a new journey that is completely different from anything they know.
I really looked forward to my time after college because of my newfound freedom. I was going to move out on my own, get a full-time job and just live a fun carefree life. Except, I didn’t. Instead, I lost my independence, I lost my mobility, and, at the time, my options.
I was looking forward to my life.
As a 20-something, I looked forward to graduate school which I deferred. I looked forward to making my own money full-time which I couldn’t manage. I looked forward to my independence, which was no longer an option because there were a lot of days I needed help. I looked forward to meeting new people, maybe even dating but definitely didn’t have the energy. I wanted to rock-climb all the time, well, do I need to even say it?
I no longer looked forward to how my life would evolve and suddenly I felt years older. I no longer looked forward to my future. It was upon me and I didn’t like what I saw. At the time of diagnosis I had very little knowledge of RA. I knew it wasn’t OA but felt just as disabled. Wasn’t this supposed to be me at 80 years old; not 20? What was my life going to be like if at this young age I couldn’t pick up my 10 pound dog, continue school or even keep up with full-time work? How was I going to have a family and take care of a child? I now know that I can still do whatever I want but at the time I felt deflated and defeated; two emotions I rarely experienced and so early in life.
I’m in my 20s but I can’t act like it.
Most weekends I stare out the window and wish I could go for that hike with my dog or go to that party with my friends. I can’t. I’m in my 20s but I can’t act like it. I can’t drink like my peers or experience what it’s like to accidentally drink too much. I can’t experience the hangover. I can’t experience sleeping in on the weekends because I stayed out too late. I can’t be a night owl. I can’t go to work functions. I can’t go on backpacking trips or long plane rides. I can’t even go out! I can’t move every two years and meet lots of new people. I can’t date. I can’t even stay awake! I can’t go to movies because I can’t sit for very long. I can’t protest anything! I can’t make stupid mistakes or be obnoxiously pretentious. I can’t pretend to have everything figured out. I can’t…
I am kind of drawing a blank right now because I don’t actually know what young adults do in their spare time. I have a very skewed idea since I can’t do very much aside from work and sleep. But, I figure being young is the definition of freedom and learning. I often feel like I’m stuck in a rut because I’m chained to my illness. Yes, I do my best to live my life as best I can but RA can be very restrictive and the complete opposite of a young adult. How do I act my age when my body isn’t complying?
Let me know if you are/were young and with RA. I’d love to know how you managed!
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?