People often ask me if my tattoos hurt, they can see those. That's a pain that goes away, I welcome that pain for the beauty in the end. What you can't see inside me is the chronic unrelenting pain and fatigue I experience on a daily basis. You can’t tell that inside me is a disease that is stigmatized, that it doesn't only affect the elderly or that it can be severe. You don't see how it comes with debilitating depression and anxiety. Everyone has pain at some point in their lives, but arthritis is a serious disease, 122 forms of much more than just joint pain.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 29 after years of misdiagnosed chronic pain. My illness landed me with the number one cause of long-term disability in Canada. I've tried over a dozen pharmaceutical medications with a long list of adverse side effects to go with them. I've struggled to get by on disability payments and to be a single mother to my young son while searching for relief, so that I can be the mom I need to be.
Just because you can't see my pain doesn’t mean it's not there. What you can't see is that my arthritis is an autoimmune form that can even effect children as young as infancy. You can't see that it’s a systemic disease which means it also attacks my organs such as my heart, lungs, skin and brain, but I don't look sick. You can't tell that chronic pain has taught me the importance of dedicated self-care and healthy living to minimize as much pain and fatigue as much as possible.
Pain taught me to fight. It's with me for life.
This featured story is part of Pain BC's chronic pain awareness campaign for National Pain Awareness Week (NPAW). Find out more about the campaign here.