Suffering from a long term illness from a young age has a huge impact on your life. For me, being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was five has meant part of my character has been shaped by a disease inside my body. I spent years being weak and surrounded by doctors, therapists, medication and a mother who held me back because she worried.
Fear is an awful thing for a child: fear of rain and getting wet because it would render me unable to move without pain. Fear of growing old and being crippled like the old people I saw on t.v who had arthritis. Fear of the pain that came every single day. I learnt to adapt; in the wet months I carry spare clothes around, extra socks, I waterproof myself, I have various medication and I take precautions to reduce the pain, warmth and comfort make a huge difference. Despite learning to deal with my arthritis as I got older I felt like I had something to prove, this weakness I'd been labelled with for so long I wanted to shake off. I still feel like I need to prove to myself that I am capable of doing things I was brought up to believe I couldn't.
What makes dealing with this sort of thing so much worse is that people don't understand. As a child I put up with mockery from other kids at school, having to sit on a chair instead of the floor made me stand out, being called a liar because 'only old people get arthritis' was cruel, and being kicked in the knees a lot was spiteful but you shrug off childhood bullies, it's ignorant people now that bother me. Some of the closest people to me can't understand why I have to bring my slippers with me when we go out, spare socks and cosy slippers in public are embarrassing. Not being able to drink alcohol occasionally because of my tablets is unacceptable. Not wanting to spend all night out on a dance floor is boring...people don't take it seriously that I have a very severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. I deal with it well, and you probably wouldn't ever know I had it unless I told you, but it's there and it's in my body and it's painful. I take every precaution to reduce the pain, it would be nice if people understood this.