Lessons in living well with arthritis: Claire's story
The secret to living well with arthritis? Never be afraid to ask for help, writes Claire Antoniou
Firstly, I should probably admit that it is highly likely I am still in some form of denial since my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis in early 2017. Having had years of trips back and forth to the GPs, referrals to secondary care with musculoskeletal teams, physio appointments, tests and different types of medication, I was finally referred to my now rheumatologist.
he denial I mention, is often soon forgotten when the pain and stiffness that arthritis brings hits you which can seem like being struck by an articulated lorry. Walking can feel like you are trudging through cement, with each step feeling heavier to take. I really struggle to make it up the stairs without this feeling hitting me with full force. The pain, inflammation and stiffness can affect most of my joints with the disease being particularly present in my hips, shoulders, knees, hands, and back.
For some time, the pain and deformed joints in my hands has made it hard to carry out daily tasks. Earlier this year the simple task of opening a jar for my daughter really brought home how difficult some of the uncomplicated functions that we take for granted had become. I reached for the jar only to be challenged with the inability to hold it properly - something I can thank my fused joints and deformed fingers for. It proved so much of a struggle try as I might I just could not turn the lid - it hurt my hands too much. I persevered and persevered, not wanting to admit defeat. I even used an old family hack of tapping the lid on the worktop in an attempt to loosen the lid. Time seemed to stand still as I tried harder to unscrew it, all to no avail. I was defeated by a jar.
I cried and cried. Cried with frustration, cried with defeat, cried that I was unable to do something so simple for my child.
But this was the moment when I searched the internet for aids to help with arthritis. I had to admit it and I had to face facts: Everyday tasks could not be completed without some form of assistance. I was already struggling to hold saucepans (sometimes containing hot liquids) due to my deformed hand joints and the deterioration of strength and I knew, I had to find ways to make my life easier and safer, especially in the kitchen.
Results from my search provided extremely limited options and I seemed unable to find any companies which specialised in such items. Items I did find were cumbersome, some were old fashioned, some were similar to items that my grandparents used 30 years ago, and still others looked cheaply made. However, I was desperate for any aids to help me, so I initially purchased a jar opener from a well-known online shop. Not knowing where to start looking and without having anything to compare it to, I took the plunge and bought it.
Having arthritis has taught me that it's okay to ask for assistance, and it's okay to ask for help. No matter how you feel about the inability to do something that you were once able to do, self-pride needs to be moved aside in times of need.
You are not a failure. You are not a burden. Your condition may be challenging. However, these challenges can in time be overcome.
"Ask for help if you're struggling with arthritis!"
- Claire Antoniou