When I was around 8 years old I was diagnosed with arthritis. My dad also has this type of arthritis, so we had an idea of what we were dealing with. I don't remember a lot about how this news affected me, in fact im pretty sure it wasn't a big deal to me at the time because my parents always have grounded me in who I am. Pain did not change who I was. I have never known how to answer people who ask me what it is like, how it feels. I could always give the honest, straight forward answer which was that my joints hurt and I got sick more easily from my medication. Those were the facts. But I always felt like the people who asked that question wanted an answer with more depth. I don't know if my perception of these people was correct, but I always think they wanted to know how chronic pain affected an 8 year. They wanted to know how arthritis felt to someone so young, and how this affected my life. I was still a kid who played and laughed and pushed boundaries. It did affect me in the sense that I had more sick days from my joint pain flaring up, and my medication making my immune system weak. But in the scheme of life, arthritis has always been a small thing. I have always felt blessed with the support system I had growing up. I went to Children's Hospital in Seattle Washington every 3-6 months. My mom and I would drive the six hours, and through those road trips I think we really got to know each other in new ways. Not every mom and daughter are forced to drive six hours together every few months, and after a while we started talking about insignificant truths. By insignificant truths I mean we ended up talking about things that made us who we are. I remember learning about how my mom doesn't eat things with blue dye in them because it feels so unnatural to her, and she learned why I was madly obsessed with ratting the living shit out of my hair (because people on Jersey Shore did it, and we all know how cool they were) I feel blessed that we talked about these things together on our drives to Seattle, because believe me, I was not the easiest kid to raise and we were gifted time to get to know each other during the messy years. On those car rides arthritis was never the thing on my mind. But to keep this blog post totally real I will say this: pain can make you bitter. When you are hurting it is easy to feel sorry for yourself sometimes. But I learned to give myself about 5 minutes of the pity party, then be grateful again. There are so many people who live with pain in ways I couldn't begin to fathom. I don't for one second take for granted the love that is given to me when I am hurting. I am aware that pain can make a person bitter, so I try very hard to be grateful. Arthritis has never been who I am, but it is a part of me. If you would ask me today what it is like to have arthritis, I still would struggle to give you an answer. It is a lot of things, not all of which have been bad. It is something that made me more empathetic and closer to my mom. It is also something that has caused me to lay in bed on beautiful days. You take the good with the bad, and never stop being grateful to the people who support you.
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Libby Anne Groseclose