Briar Edmonds has turned to the popular social media platform Instagram to help her come to terms with a life-changing diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), at only 35.

Her Instagram bio says, Newly minted with RA. I am just figuring out how to live with this disease — hoping to tell my story and connect with others from NZ. Briar, also known as @rheumatoid_arthritis_diaries, finds Instagram to be an excellent outlet to express what she experiences, feels, and deals with while living with RA.

“Sometimes I feel like the normal me, and other times I feel like an 80-year-old version of me.”

Briar’s symptoms began only six months before she decided to see her GP. She went through 4 months of various specialists which started with a neurologist because one of the symptoms was tingling in the hands. Briar got referred to a rheumatologist who made the RA diagnosis.

“It came on suddenly, and within a matter of weeks, my hands were so stiff and sore they were like claws. I started having issues walking properly and just terrible pain all over my body. RA is a chronic, lifelong, and progressive disease I’ll be stuck with forever.”

Briar had to reduce her work down from five days a week to 4 days a week while she was figuring out what medication helped. Some medication had severe side-effects like fatigue, making it more challenging to cope with a full-time job and everyday tasks.

“At only 35, and as a previously very active person, it was a blow.”

Briar says she spent her year finding the right medication combination and dealing with the side effects. She has also come to grips with not being able to use her body the same way she did before.

Briar needed to adjust her lifestyle to find the right combination of sleep, diet, and activity that works for her and feels Instagram has helped in many ways. “Instagram gives me somewhere to talk and connect with others who have RA. People have been kind and helpful, and we learn from each other.”

 “It’s been an epic journey with many tears along the way. I’ve finally reached a point where my symptoms are manageable, and I’m able to go back to working full time. My medication and improving lifestyle are helping for now.”

Briar says that support from friends and family is everything. “I am beyond lucky to have a man in my life who cares deeply about me, and I about him. We are an amazing team tackling this stupid disease together.”

Arthritis can affect anyone at any age, and new figures released in 2018 reveal that more than 670,000 people in New Zealand have a form of arthritis (osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and more than 140 other types), 48% of which are of working age.

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