How Psoriatic Arthritis Led to a Downward Spiral in My Self-Esteem
One of my favorite visuals in life is that of the domino toppling. To me, there is just something so satisfying about seeing them fall like that. The idea that someone can set something up so perfectly that it can be torn apart so beautifully has a strange appeal to me. Especially considering the fact I do not like the domino effect on my life. Ever since I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) at age 16, my life has been in a continual domino effect.
I would love to say I found out about my PsA at an early enough age I could cope with it properly, but sadly, the insecurities of life got to me. It started simple enough too. My first insecurity was that of my health and body image. How would people around me view me because of my health? I was in high school. I then went to college. I have a disease that most of the world equates with old age. Yet, here I was. I can’t even count all of the times I cancelled activities with friends because I was afraid of what they would think about my body. All of those perceived thoughts eventually became my true thoughts.
Those body image thoughts just led to more trouble in life. Due to the negativity I had of myself, I immediately believed everyone thought that. Surely, I told myself, people couldn’t love or care for a broken-bodied man like me. So I never tried too hard in relationships. When it came to romantic relationships, I never even had the courage to ask a girl out. When I did, I stumbled over the words and looked like a fool, at least in my mind. So I just kept reinforcing those thoughts in my mind over and over and over.
With all of that happening, how could I expect to live a normal life with a normal job? I know I didn’t. Most jobs look for the perfect physical person. Someone that can do whatever is needed to get the job done. I knew for a fact that wasn’t me. My PsA got to the point that I couldn’t even stand for more than 10 minutes without being in some extreme amount of pain. What job would ever hire me? I wouldn’t hire me.
The domino effect. So beautiful with literal dominoes, but so dangerous when done in someone’s life. I wish I could tell you I overcame every single obstacle and now live life like it was meant to be lived. I didn’t. I still deal with some of it, especially the romantic relationship aspect of it. It’s led to a ton of friend-zoned relationships because the confidence wasn’t there. The doubt still lives in me, but I fight it.
I fight every day. Mainly due to the fact that I have witnessed good come in my life while fighting PsA. While a lot of my family and friends lack complete understanding of my disease and my fight, they have told me countless times they love me for me. No disease can change that for them. I am incredibly lucky in my support from my friends and family. It can be hard to find that. Which each positive and supportive friend I had, I have had another one that was negative and hurtful. Thankfully, those good friends have helped push me in directions and places I never thought I would go. It may be hard, but you have to find those people. The ones that care. The ones that love you for you. Especially the ones that come up to you one day and say, “Hey, I searched about your struggle. I am so sorry. Please tell me more.” The ones who show you that are the ones to keep forever.
The journey is hard, but if you begin to understand your body and illness more, then it can take you many places. I’m now 28 years old. It’s been a 12-year fight and struggle with PsA. However, I have traveled through most of the United States. I was lucky enough to spend an entire year teaching in Morocco. Morocco then allowed me the ability to travel to a few places in Europe. 16-year-old, and really 22-year-old me never thought that was possible. I’ve been other places, but understanding my body and my disease helped me the most. I knew what I could handle on a daily basis. Sure, sometimes I did nothing and let my body rest while in London, but it made the journey more memorable because my body didn’t hate me.
The journey with a chronic illness is not easy, and it probably never will be. That just makes you stronger. Remember, you live your day through pain and struggles that most people don’t ever experience. You experience it every day. You’re amazing for that. I would love to tell you that your insecurities completely go away. To be honest, you may be able to fully fight an insecurity one day. The journey starts with you.
For me, the knowledge of what my body could handle pushed me in the right direction. Then the strong group of friends I have chosen pushed further. The journey may start with you, but it doesn’t have to end with you. You don’t need to do it alone. Find the people you know care about you and ask them for help. Also, if no one has told this you lately… You’re awesome. You’re strong. You’re amazing. You have tremendous courage and strength each and every day to make it through what life throws at you.
I’ve come to learn that the domino effect in life can become beautiful like the literal domino effect. You just have to remember that you steer the fall of the dominoes in life.
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