by Rhianna Boyd
“Resilient” is one of my absolute favourite words. It means ‘the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events’ such as my own journey of living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and battling through the mental and physical challenges that come with living with an autoimmune condition.
RA can affect many joints, including those in the hands and feet. The body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, resulting in symptoms such as painful swelling, fatigue, joint stiffness, bone erosion and deformity.
Arthritis is not that simple to diagnose, especially in children, and it actually took me two years to finally get diagnosed at the tender age of 14. The late diagnosis resulted in having to get a wrist fusion and lose the entire movement and function of the right wrist – fortunately, I am left-handed!
Growing up with a condition that has pain as a main feature as a teenager that is often perceived to be an “elderly illness” wasn’t easy, and as an often outwardly invisible looking illness, I found it hard to communicate and explain the immense physical pain I was suffering and began to battle through mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and sadly I had even battled a long-term eating disorder. The eating disorder was a way of me trying to desperately seek some sort of control over my body by controlling my weight when I couldn’t control the physical pain I was enduring.
Now 27 years old and over three years into my eating disorder recovery, I have learnt and grown so much. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that my arthritis diagnosis does not define me.
I may have pain most days
I may take medication (one being my weekly injection to try and keep the inflammation under control)
I may have a metal wrist and swelling in areas such as my knuckles, knees and feet
But I strongly believe in resilience and getting back up when you get knocked down again and again
I refuse to let the arthritis define my life.
I have already done and experienced so many amazing things despite the odds, such as being a flight attendant for four years (before my feet got too bad), doing fun and amazing photoshoots, travelling solo on multiple yoga retreats, writing a self-help autobiography which was aimed to raise awareness and encourage conversation around mental health.
I hope that by sharing my story, it can help other people with invisible illnesses, pain disorders or whatever personal challenge they may be facing know that they are not alone.
I want those struggling and feeling lost out there to know that they can achieve absolutely anything they put their mind to. They are amazing and resilient, and there is always hope.