When my doctor first told me that I had PsA, I have to admit that my initial feeling was total relief. Sounds perverse, but I was just so happy that I wasn’t being told that I had Lupus (which is what I’d suspected was the cause of my symptoms), that my brain didn’t hear much else.
Of course, when my diagnosis hit me, I soon became scared about what it meant for me and my future, but after years of being in pain and discomfort I was just excited to begin a treatment plan and hopefully get some relief.
My journey to diagnosis was a long one: I had joint pain in my hands, wrists and elbows in my early twenties, and slowly began to experience other signs of PsA, but would only be affected by one symptom at a time, which made the condition particularly difficult to diagnose.
On the occasions when I would complain to my Primary Care doctor about knee pain, I was told that aging and excess weight were to blame. This made sense to me, so I ignored the stiffness, swelling, fatigue, skin rashes and lesions and frequent respiratory infections. It wasn’t until I relocated from Atlanta to New Jersey in 2011 that all my symptoms presented at once. At the risk of being labelled a hypochondriac, I finally summoned the courage to take all my complaints to my doctor. She told me she suspected all my issues were tied to one problem. A Rheumatologist and Dermatologist did separate testing, and then conferred. I had to wait about two months for the final diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis.
My diagnosis was the permission I needed to make the changes that my body was crying for: I started working out in the gym regularly, began gentle yoga and started eating an anti-inflammatory diet. I had been experiencing symptoms for
years, but had to learn to adapt my lifestyle to fit around my flare-ups.
I now avoid household chores if I know they will hurt me, and eventually overcame my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and will cancel plans at the last minute if I need to. I’ve learned to listen to my body, to know when to push myself and when to rest.
Most importantly, my attitude to my PsA has changed. At first, my Psoriatic Arthritis seemed a prison to me. Now, it is a platform for me to help other people with PsA, helping them feel less alone, sharing what I’ve learned along the way and meeting other wonderful people also living well with PsA. This positive and hopeful attitude shift came all at once after I met other health bloggers with my disease. I saw the impact they were having and was grateful to have a way to use my disease for the good of others.
My current Rheumatologist is great. I feel he really listens. I am always impressed when I call and he remembers my lab results or latest imaging reports. He takes my opinions and requests about medications and treatment plans into consideration. I feel like we are working together.
Based on what I know now, if I could go back in time to my moment of diagnosis, I would tell myself this: Don’t panic. You are more in control of this than you think. There are non-medication ways you can help yourself to feel and function better. You can be a help to others. Be kind to yourself.