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!

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.

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