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When I Was Told I Needed Joint Injections for My Chronic Illness

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Today, at the age of 27 years old, I was told that I faced the threat of an injection in my wrist.

I had made an emergency doctor’s appointment the day prior because red welts appeared on my finger joints and it hurt to move my hands. Now my hands ballooned in size and there were dimples were my knuckles should be. Sitting in the doctors office, I felt tears in my eyes when the  doctor asked me if I felt like I needed an injection.

“Well I don’t know what constitutes as needing one,” I nervously stammered.

The doctor replied that it was just a really big needle that goes into your wrist and it would hurt very badly. That wasn’t my question, but oh well.

My mother, who had gone to the appointment with me because my husband could not get off work, expressed sympathy, for she had gotten a knee  injection in her 50s. As I sat in the room, terrified and hopeless, I heard the doctor say “this must be because of that autoimmune problem you  have.”

My “autoimmune problem.” The thing they hadn’t figured out yet that was giving me some real hell, that had caused me to take medical leave on my dream, graduate school. And here I was with a problem I thought only 60-something-year-olds  could sympathize with.

None of my friends had been threatened with words like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis as a newlywed, or seen the damage those words could do to  a romantic relationship. I felt like an old woman disguised as a 20-something. I wasn’t really me.

I wasn’t really a person. Who was if they couldn’t be genuine? Who was if all they wanted from their new husband was to be gently held?

I guess I must be some form of person. Maybe in a gelatinous, spiky way. Like hair gel on little boys.

After the appointment, I laid in bed with a bowl of ice to soak my hand in, as I was told to do in order to avoid the needle. Why did I feel the need for a diagnosis that had evaded me for three years now? Was it because I needed something to define myself by, to rally myself behind? Did I want something so horrifying as this position, of awkwardly positioning my hand in a freezing bowl off the side of my mattress mixed with nausea and a migraine to be my defining traits and moments?


I wanted someone to help me. To fix these broken days, so I could have hands that could write and hold a pen, or maybe crochet. That I could have things to talk about other than my many illnesses. Medicine needed to come through to break the clouds wide open and let the sun shine on me.

Not all of us get that, sometimes not for years, but for now these are things I have, however temporal they are:

My dog.

My husband.

My nice, safe, warm house.

My parents.

My sister.

My friends.


A functioning laptop.

A brain in my noggin.

The fact that stories are everywhere, and they should be told.

I’ll let these suns keep shining on. Whether I get one, none, or many injections on my health journey, I will keep shining for you.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Getty image via Kateryna Kovarzh.

Originally published: February 24, 2020
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