When I was fourteen I thought my life was over. I was ready to throw in the towel and curl up into a ball.
I’m sure your first thought when reading that statement was that this over dramatic response was because of a boy, or a fight with a friend. But it was neither. It was because of a diagnosis and what came with it.
After months of tests and a lot of pain I was handed the label of Psoriatic Arthritis. Aside from trying some medications and learning pain management techniques there wasn't much anyone could do about it, and I knew it was something I’d have for life. At fourteen, I didn't care about the big picture rest of my life part, I cared about the moment—and all the moments that came after.
Giving up running and the musical instruments I loved to play was a hard blow, but nothing compared to losing the ability to write with a pen or pencil. My greatest passion and release was creative writing, and how was I ever going to write again? I’m sure I’m dating myself with this post, but in the late 90s, using a laptop in school wasn't cool, and writing creatively on something as cold and modern as a computer? Forget it. I was angry. I was in pain, and I didn't even have my go to outlet of writing to help me through it.
Everywhere I went people told me what I couldn't do anymore, what I couldn't accomplish. I didn't belong in honors classes, I was going to struggle doing everyday things, and it was going to be really hard to handle the physical rigors of caring for young children. These negative words came from all around me, but the loudest voice of them all was my own. I was practically screaming “I’m going to be a failure” on the top of my lungs.
I could have listened to the negativity, and for a short period of time I did. I pulled inside and felt sorry for myself each and every time an arthritis flare had me sidelined from my normal high school life.
I was lucky though. I had a family that screamed just as loudly about the things I could do, and who wouldn't let me feel sorry for myself. And then somehow my own voice changed—and I opened a new document on my computer.
The first poem I typed wasn't great. It wasn't earth shattering, and to be honest, I don’t even remember what it was about, but it was a beginning. In the days and weeks that followed, I kept writing more poems, and then short stories and plays. I still stared longingly at my pile of notebooks and journals, but it was with nostalgia and not anger.
I used that same attitude to get through college and law school. I pushed myself hard, and never let myself feel (too) sorry for myself. When my hands gave out on me, I even resorted to typing exams with a pencil in my mouth, because I refused to be a failure. I refused to prove those negative voices right.
It’s been seventeen years since I was first diagnosed with arthritis. I’m a mother of two amazing kids, and I’m married to a wonderful man. I've published close to twenty books—all typed on a computer. It turns out that using a computer didn't completely shut off my creativity. I credit my arthritis with making me a stronger person. It’s pushed me to challenge myself and constantly strive for success. Now when someone tells me I can’t do something (even when it’s my own inner critic), I say oh yeah? Watch this. Let go of the self-doubt and negativity. You never know, jumping over the biggest hurdles might just change you for the better.