We don't have to live in silence

When I was 11 years old I was diagnosed with RA. For many years before that, actually for as long as I can remember I have been in pain. I remember being a small child and always trying so hard to keep up with my friends, siblings, and cousins and never wanting anyone to see the pain I was in and treat me like I was different. Then at night I would pay for it. I would lay awake and cry all night in pain. I developed horrible anxiety about going to bed, because I would become so tired from not sleeping all night on top of the inevitable fatigue that comes with RA and chronic pain. I then developed anxiety about the anxiety of going to bed! Both seemed so unmanageable as a child. This constant feeling of impending doom. As I got older and entered highschool I was also diagnosed with scoliosis, fibro, and sero negative spondyloarthropathy. On top of the joint pain that came with RA, I also had all over wide spread muscle pain, back and neck pain, arthritis of the spine, and shooting nerve pain from the spine and neck. My joints would swell up sometimes to the point I could not move my knees. They would put me on crutches for a few days, which I was horribly embaressed about because there was no visual injury that people could see. They did not understand and thought it was for attention. Eventually, I stopped showing any sign of even telling my parents. I just dealt with it. I was put on methotrexate injections and enbrel. It made my skin thin, my hair frail, and I caught every cold and sickness you could imagine. My little adolescent brain couldn't wrap itself around what was going on. It felt like a death sentence. I am now 24. The level of pain I have is unbarable most days. But it no longer feels like a death sentence. I am not grateful for the isolation I felt as a child due to my disease because it made me stronger, it made me more compassionate, and it made me wiser. I use that pain and experince to help others. Today I am going to get a procedure done on my spine to slow down the nerve signals. Today, I decides I no longer need to remain silent in my disease or my struggle. I choose to give RA a voice. I choose to no longer struggle silently. Just because you cannot see my disease the way you can see others does not mean it is not there, and real. Some days I don't want to get out of bed, but I do and I never give up and never stop fighting. Today I choose to give a voice to all my RA warriors who silently struggle in isolation. Not just RA, but all autoimmune diseases, mentall illnesses or any other chronic disease that is not visible. It may not get better, but our outlook can. This disease can be used as a gift and a tool. I choose to live my life proactively, by utilizing chiropractic, massage, physical therapy, stretches, supplements, and eating healthy. I choose to live right, and not be a victim of this disease. You can try to take out my body, but you will never take my soul, my empowerment, my love, my ambition, my motivation. I will make a difference in this world. I will be heard. I will leave my mark. My life matters, even if it is different then yours. My disease is real, my pain is real, and I will not be ashamed that I am different then you. I was blessed with the gift of sight from the perspective of a minority. I am a warrior. I am RA strong. Even on days I can't get up for me, I will get up for you. For my kids, for my friends, for my loved ones, for the lives I have touched, and the lives I will touch. I will give this disease purpose, I will be strong. I will be strong by showing my weakness. I live in pain, but it does not define me. My diseases do not define me. My soul does, this disease enriched my soul. If you are struggling with the depression, anxiety, or sense of overwhelming doom that comes with this disease. You are not alone, and you don't have to remain silent.

Kelsey Needham

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