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I Was Wrong About Arthritis

I was wrong about arthritis before.

I was wrong about who arthritis affects. I thought it was an affliction of the elderly, a nuisance I might encounter as I age, but nothing to worry about now. I thought that as long I stayed healthy, I could prolong the purchase of an orthopedic mattress until the age of 80. I didn’t know that arthritis would find me so early, like a blizzard striking an unsuspecting city before the leaves have even fallen off the trees.

I was wrong about how arthritis feels

As I watched elderly people grimace in Tylenol commercials, I imagined a headache-like sensation that lived in one’s knees, a dull soreness easily quelled by 500 milligrams of acetaminophen. I imagined grandparents walking slowly and hands too weak to open jars. I didn’t know that arthritis haunts bodies like a team of angry ghouls — some that crush your ribcage with invisible arms, others that throw matches at your feet and laugh as the fire spreads.

I was wrong about how arthritis is “fixed”

I thought that surely today’s painkillers were enough to relieve the pain. Slap on an Icy Hot patch and get on with your day, like the commercials said. I knew nothing of how people manage their arthritis — weekly injections, steroids, and hip replacements on 20-year-olds. I was unaware of the thousands of dollars people have to pay for arthritis treatment, and the thousands of people who can’t afford treatment at all.

When I was in the process of being diagnosed, some doctors were wrong about arthritis, too. At first, they chalked up my pain up to sports injuries and growing pains. They told me to keep up with physiotherapy and everything would get better. Maybe the images from Tylenol commercials were stuck in their minds, too — 18-year-olds never star in those.

As I began to live with arthritis, I learned the reality of it. I learned the unique frustration of my pain not being taken seriously, the struggle of finding medication that works, and the embarrassment of not being able to keep up. I learned about the mental toll that living with chronic pain takes. I learned about the mornings where pain acts an alarm clock, and the lonely nights when it feels like no one understands.

I was wrong about arthritis until I experienced it

When I reflect on what I used to think, versus what I know now, it is vastly different. Lots of people are still wrong about arthritis, like the people who find it ridiculous, and even funny, that I have arthritis at the age of 22. The stereotypes about arthritis do not reflect the experiences of the millions of people who live with it. Question your beliefs — I was wrong about arthritis, but you don’t have to be.

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