Erasing the stigma associated with mental illness is a cause I’m very involved in. Beside the fact that I am studying to become an adolescent psychologist, I also come from a bloodline of horrible anxiety. Besides dealing with my GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), it’s not my only struggle. I have three autoimmune diseases (Arthritis, Graves Disease & Lupus). Lupus has been my biggest struggle since being diagnosed. But you’d never know that by looking at me.
I wish I could say my GAD and autoimmune diseases don’t overlap. Most days they don’t but having Graves Disease makes me experience horrible mood swings ranging from being extremely happy to infuriated to really depressed. The worst part has to be my GAD and Lupus though. Lupus is fueled off stress and having GAD all I do is worry and stress over the silliest things, so if I am really anxious, I unfortunately get sick.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. In some ways, lupus represents a kind of allergic reaction by the body, in which the immune system sees the body’s own healthy tissues and cells as foreign. Lupus has numerous symptoms, which makes every case different, like how every person who has lupus is different. But you don’t look sick. Lupus isn’t a physical illness; the only parts of lupus that are visible on the body are rashes or loss of hair. But people cannot tell who has lupus from just looking at them.
My journey with lupus started when I turned thirteen, I had arthritis as a young baby, but at age thirteen my arthritis turned into lupus. It hadn’t really affected me beside the crippling fatigue and lack of energy until I was seventeen. Everything started off as a normal morning I came home for the weekend from school and my mother bought me breakfast. My elbow was numb and the numbness soon moved up my body to my mouth and eye. I went to the hospital (which becomes your second home when you have lupus) and it was ruled out that I had a mini stroke. Also recently I had both of my hips fully replaced due to my arthritis and lupus. Also you have a doctor for everything, it’s actually pretty funny because if you didn’t have this disease you’d never know half these doctors existed (doctors soon become like family, but hate to break it to you, no more Christmas presents from doctors/hospitals when you’re eighteen).
If you looked at me you wouldn’t know I’m sick. That’s how it is with most patients who have lupus. Individuals with lupus are called spoonies and there are a ton of spoonies out in the world all with different stories. I got a tattoo with a ribbon with a spoon through it to represent that lupus is a part of me.
Lupus has brought me many hardships, but has also brought some beneficial aspects to my life. Yes, I do have to spend a lot of time resting or getting testing done but I also meet a lot of interesting people and get to participate in an annual walk for lupus with some great people. It also teaches you to appreciate the people in your life and life in general more.
Lupus will be a part of me and my life for the rest of my life, but this disease will not define me. I may not look sick, but I am. Always have been and always will be but that won’t stop me from living my life, to my pace. I’m twenty years old, I plan on living my life to the fullest.