My name is Alex Rockwell and here is my story.
In the tenth grade, I thought I had pink eye and treated it as such. It was much more painful than pink eye- I could barely open my left eye and it was bloodshot. After this happened several times, I went to my eye doctor and was informed it was Uveitis. My eye doctor then asked me if I had recently had any joint pain and thinking it was an odd question I simply told her no. She asked that I have some blood drawn for arthritis since arthritis and uveitis are often connected. When she got the results back, she said I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis. She said that I should go to a rheumatologist to better understand what to do next. Before then, I had never heard of Ankylosing Spondylitis so I started to research it. I found that in some cases it causes the spine to fuse together and cause great pain until you get surgery. You can imagine this scared me, but going to the rheumatologist definitely helped to calm my nerves.
At the rheumatologist’s office, I learned that I only have a mild case, therefore, I learned, I do need to take a few medications to avoid another Uveitis flare up and inflammatory pain. These medications even include a painful shot that I have to take every two weeks. Every day when I take my medicine, I become instantly melancholy thinking of the pain from having this illness. I still miss the mornings when I could wake up without stiffness or sit for a while without being in pain. I never would have imagined this happening to me especially at such a young age. Whenever I go to the rheumatologist, it’s more like counseling than a doctor’s appointment because dealing with such a disease can be more draining on a person’s spirit than on your general wellbeing. Arthritis causes a lot of stress for young people like me. For example, if I’m leaning over a desk doing homework for an hour then I won’t be able to get to sleep because my back hurts too much. I went through bouts of sadness because I felt like I didn’t deserve this and if I ignore it maybe it will go to away. I would even “forget” to take my medicine because I wanted to avoid having arthritis altogether. I felt sorry for myself. My rheumatologist once told me, “Those who have arthritis often feel sorry for themselves, but they never want pity from others”. Arthritis is not something that strikes alone, for me it came with Uveitis, pain, and sadness.
Sometime in the past year, I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. This did not happen overnight. It was a process. A long process. I had accepted that I would be in a long term relationship for better or for worse. I even got a tattoo that is a giraffe missing its spots but instead the spots were replaced with letters than spell out “Stand Tall.” I am stupendously proud of my tattoo. Now if the pain of my back weighs me down I will simply Stand Tall. Arthritis is only one fraction of my life and there is so much more to come. I want to one day be a kindergarten teacher which worries me now because teachers are always on their feet moving around. Last year I was a teacher’s assistant and it wasn’t always bad, but on bad arthritis days it slowed me down the whole day. There will always be good days and bad, arthritis or not.
Florida, United States of America