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The First Time My Rheumatoid Arthritis Made Me Cry

Throughout my 24 years of life, I’ve cried a lot. In fact, I had begun to see my tears as something that wasn’t negative, but something much bigger and complex than it seemed on the surface. When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2012, shortly after my 18th birthday, I had cried plenty of tears. The pain was insurmountable, the confusion was never-ending. My life which had only just begun was starting to seem as if it was actually ending.

I lost plenty of friends and family members due to the emotional weight of my disease, and the reality of it. I wasn’t easy to be around anymore. I couldn’t go out on the town, dance and party, and I could rarely be seen without pajamas.

But this isn’t what made me cry – in fact, the true tears didn’t come until I was 23. My family and I decided to draw up an Advance Directive for myself and other members of our family. We had always lived with the notion, “just in case” was better than “a little too late.” At 23, I had been through so much, and the thought of planning things in the event of my untimely death seemed fair, and yet so unimaginable. I knew exactly what to do, and how I wanted things to be taken care of in the event I was going to die.

All I needed was to ask one of my closest friends if they could emotionally handle being my power of attorney. I texted her earlier that week, mentioning I had something I needed to discuss with her, and it was important. When she told me she was at home and available to talk, I prepared myself as I walked down the street to her house.

We had known each other for over a decade, and we grew up together down the street. Somehow, this walk down to see her felt different. Mostly because it was different. It was heavy, and I wasn’t entirely sure of how it would work out.

When we sat down, I sucked in a deep breath in an attempt to hold my emotions together. I was OK with what was happening – it was merely hypothetical. But what if this hypothetical became reality? I looked to my dear friend and explained to her what was going on, what I was doing and what I wanted her to do if she was up to it.

“What would I have to do?” she asked me, not really looking at me. We both knew if we looked at one another, we’d cry far too much. After explaining the details of my Advanced Directive, she nodded, looked up at me, and said: “If you need me, I’ll be there. Even if it means you won’t be there when it’s said and done.” We hugged for the longest time, and as I write this, tears are trying to fall.

two friends sitting together and smiling

The only thing that my diagnosis has really done to me to make me cry was forced me, and those I love, to face my own mortality, and to accept it, no matter how much we wanted to fight it.

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