Diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager: Francesca’s emotional journey

Author: Arthritis Research UK

I was diagnosed at 16 but I had been poorly from the age of about 11 or 12 It started off with joint pains and swelling and I used to get tonsillitis a lot. At the age of 14 they took my tonsils out. And after that, my symptoms actually just got worse. So I went to see a paediatrician who said to me ‘well, it can’t be arthritis but I will send you to Great Ormond Street because to be honest I don’t really know what is going on’.

And within weeks they had found me a diagnosis. I was completely shocked. I don’t think I came to terms with it for a very long time. It played a huge effect on my studies. I must have missed about 50% of the year to be in hospital to go to appointments or just being too poorly to go to school.

It made me have some anger about being diagnosed at a young age and how limiting it is on your life. I went to see a counsellor, because I was just feeling really down and I think I started to feel quite a lot of anxiety I could almost draw a graph from a fairly non-stressful time - disease activity is quite low as soon as I am stressed, disease activity just shoots up Straight away my counsellor started to turn things around for me. So at the time I was really pressing to study biology and biomedical science I would struggle to open bottles in the lab. It was becoming a real challenge for me and incredibly painful. I took the decision to step away from it, maybe go a different route that was better for me a part time degree with the Open University And they didn’t do anything like biomedical science but psychology has always been something I have been incredibly interested in after seeing a counsellor It was just such a perfect option and it really gave me something to focus on again Pace yourself and really have so much patience with it because you’re really not in control of what’s going on with your body like you’d want to be Just really look after yourself and don’t beat yourself up about it. Talking is the only way you are ever going to help yourself.

I think it is the hardest thing in the world to do especially when you are in so much pain, you are feeling so poorly and you do feel isolated and you don’t want to speak to people because you just don’t really have the energy. People are willing to listen, especially someone like your Mum, or a counsellor for instance and work out a way to come out of the bad time and into a better one, and keep in a better one.

Diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager: Francesca’s emotional journey

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Diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager: Francesca’s emotional journey

I was diagnosed at 16 but I had been poorly from the age of about 11 or 12 It started off with joint pains and swelling and I used to get tonsillitis a lot. At the age of 14 they took…

By: Arthritis Research UK