A woman points to her seat as she's asked to move for an elderly man

Learning to Help Others and Help Myself

Last updated: October 2022

Being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at any age is rough, but it can be especially challenging in childhood and young adulthood. No one sees the struggle and pain: they see a young face and assume you have the energy and strength of any young person.

While I do sometimes appreciate being able to hide my illness, there are lots of times I wish others could see I was struggling.

The unique challenge of being a young person with PsA

It's hard when others have expectations because you seem okay on the outside. I've been asked to help move heavy objects, offer my seat to others, and do other tasks that are sometimes really painful because "you're young- it's easy for you."

Others just don't know- and how would they? But it's still frustrating, and it can be awkward to inform others that sometimes an arthritis flare means you can't help.

I frequently use public transportation since I used to go to school and now work in the city, and there have been so many times I was the first to be asked to give up a seat. One time, I remember waiting for the bus after a long day. I was in the midst of a bad flare, and I was so happy to sink into that plastic seat.

I relished the few minutes of relief when I felt a tap on my shoulder. The bus driver stood before me and asked if I could stand so an elderly woman who got on a stop after me could sit. I wasn't sitting in the priority seating section, but I quickly looked around at my fellow passengers and realized I had been chosen because I was the youngest-looking person on the bus.

Albeit painful, I'm always willing to lend a hand

What did I do? I immediately stood up and moved to the side so she could sit. I told myself it was only a 15-minute ride. At the time, I was a little irritated because I wasn't feeling well, but I wouldn't have wanted the woman to stand since she seemed unsteady on her feet.

Although annoying, I don't get angry when people look at how young I am and expect me to give up a seat or move a heavy object. Young people are typically expected to do those things. And usually, I'm happy to lend a hand. My mother taught me to help out when I am able.

Normally, I'm happy to give up my seat if it means an elderly person or a mom holding her baby can sit on the bus. Pushing through a few minutes of pain is worth it in those moments as long as everyone is safe.

But I find it frustrating sometimes, especially when I'm not feeling well. It's awkward to refuse, and sometimes I don't feel like explaining myself. And I know many young people dealing with psoriatic arthritis and other chronic illnesses feel the same way.

Helping others can also mean helping myself

But know that it's okay to say 'no,' too. Your age or appearance doesn't obligate you to be the first to sacrifice your seat, offer help, or whatever the task. It's especially true if you feel like it wouldn't be safe. You can say, "I'm sorry- I have arthritis, and I'm in a bad flare right now," or whatever you feel comfortable saying.

And most importantly, don't feel bad. While I'm often afraid I will be judged, it's seldom the case. People who do judge aren't worth your time or worry anyway. And many times, someone else will step up to help if there are others around.

You can ask for help, too. If you need a seat, ask! There's often someone willing to help. I recall once, I saw a woman get on the bus and ask someone if they'd be willing to give her their seat because she just had a hip operation. Although the person she asked said no, two other people got up to offer their seats.

The point is we all could use a little kindness. So be kind to your neighbor when you're able to, and be kind to yourself.

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