“I was in my mid-20s, working in a pub in Clontarf. The world was my oyster. I owned an apartment, had a nice car, a full-time job, and money in my pocket. I was living the Celtic Tiger Dream. The pub was always busy with an excellent atmosphere, and I loved the fast-paced lifestyle it provided. I also played football back then, so I had a lot of things going on for me. It all started by feeling tired and really sore at work for no apparent reason. It felt like when I used to do pre-season training, but instead of recovering after a day or two, this was just getting worse. It got to a point where I just couldn’t function at work. I had people covering for me as I kept getting tired and sore. At some point, I couldn’t even bend down to take bottles out of the fridge. I was so tired that I would take my breaks in my car, and I would just fall asleep. I went to the doctor, and he was doing all sorts of tests on me. There was nothing coming up, but it was all joint pains in my shoulders, hips, and knees. He suspected that it was a type of arthritis, so he referred me to a specialist. My pub career finished when I fell asleep standing at the bar, and a customer asked me if I was okay? I went straight to my manager and told him that I was not okay, and he was like, I know, I saw it on the camera. I am glad that you came over. I asked him to give me a two weeks break to recover, but it ended up being my last day working there.”
‘In those two weeks, I got my first diagnosis – Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was still a kid in my head; I never had any issues with my health up until that point. My life was smooth sailing really. That was the reason that this all hit me so hard. By not working, I completely lost my identity and my self-worth. For about two years, every time I went to a doctor, there was either a new diagnosis or news about something getting worse. After doing some more tests for my fragmented sleep, they found out that I had Sleep Apnea as well. My whole life, the life that I was taking for granted, was crumbling down right in front of my eyes. Everything I enjoyed was taken away from me. Every single aspect of my life has been impacted by my condition, and soon, my mental health started to break down. I was becoming seriously depressed and I had panic attacks to the point that I tried to take my life. That event really served as a shock to the system, which I probably needed to get on with life and start over. I felt that there was no lower place to go, so all I could do was go up from there. I began to start step-by-step. I started by doing a self-management course with Arthritis Ireland, which put me back on track, and I was also able to meet people with the same condition. I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. By using the services offered by Arthritis Ireland, I realised that I got so much from them that I began to train to give those talks. I spent six years volunteering with them, and now I work for them full-time. I realised that after my medication and my treatments were in order, I got a lot of my functionality back, so I decided to retrain myself and go back to college. My life got a new purpose. My condition never went away, but I figured out a new reality. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and giving up on yourself will never be a solution. I have rediscovered myself through this experience, and I became a better person.”
This post was highlighted by @ArthritisIreland National Arthritis Week is taking place this week highlighting the importance of physical activity for people living with arthritis.
Anyone wishing to support Arthritis Ireland can do so by making a donation on its website.