Health

How Being Diagnosed With Psoriatic Arthritis Changed My Life

Hearing that I would have this debilitating disease forever was a complete shock. Initially, I refused to believe my doctor. I thought, “You don’t know me.” I would just do more yoga and stretching. I would continue with an anti-inflammatory diet. I always believed that I could do anything—there was nothing that could hold me back.

One day, on my way home from a medical appointment, I went to a grocery store. The blisters on my palms and soles started bleeding through my socks and gloves. When I went to pay, the cashier recoiled at the sight of my hands and called her manager to deal with me. I tried to explain to everyone that I wasn’t contagious, but they looked at me with disgust. I felt like a monster. Over the next month, I barely left the house, which caused my joints to seize up and get stiff. I had always been the person who helped others. But in my darkest hour, I realized it was time for me to reach out for support.

I started contacting people I knew for help: my aunt, a former law colleague, my yoga teacher, a doctor I had met through my new job in health care. (I am now the director of social media at a medical education company.) All of them rallied around me.

I reached out to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). Almost immediately, one of the directors called me. She spoke to me for an hour and followed up by sending over some resources. The NPF also put me in touch with a group of people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in my region. I participate in monthly Zoom calls where we all talk about what we’re going through.

Being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and pustular psoriasis completely changed the trajectory of my life. In some ways, I still can’t believe this has happened to me. In my dreams, I still do flips and handstands. It’s a shock when I wake up and remember my new reality.

Most mornings, I can barely get out of bed. But I force myself to stretch and take my pomeranian Mr. Darcy for a walk. He has the world’s smallest bladder, so he needs to walk every two hours. That’s actually good for me, because once I’m moving—even if I’m crying at the same time—I know I’m slowly working my joints so they won’t seize up and get stiff.

The conditions tend to ebb and flow, so I do have periods where my hands and feet partially heal and the inflammation goes down so I can move with less pain. But then I’ll have another flare-up, brought on by a range of factors including stress, the weather, or a secondary illness, and I’m back to being impaired. I still haven’t made peace with the fact that there are some things I can’t physically do, but I’m never going to give up. I still go to hard yoga classes, even if I can’t perform all of the moves. I still play the piano, like I have my whole life, even if my fingers can no longer bend to press the keys like they used to.

However, as hard as it is, some changes have been for the better. I learned who my real friends are—and they weren’t always the people I expected. I found a job where I feel like I get to make a difference and where I’m valued every day. Now, I’m the director of social media for a large medical education company, and I feel like I’m fulfilling my true purpose. I’m part of a company that helps doctors further their education so they can help people. And most of all, going through this experience has taught me empathy. I’ve always loved people, but now I have a deeper love for others that I didn’t have before. I feel like this whole thing brought me so much clarity. I’m thankful for every day and every step that I take.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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