A woman is surrounded by radiating layers of lines that represent her fear of her future with psoriatic arthritis

Embracing Fear: Life With Psoriatic Arthritis

I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis 30 years ago. I remember feeling relief at the time. There was a name for what was going on. Sure, I was disappointed to learn that there was no cure, but I don’t remember feeling fear. Maybe that’s because I was 23 and there isn’t much that scares someone in their 20’s. Or, it could just be that I didn’t really understand what I was up against. But fear wasn’t part of my thought process.

A new type of panic and pain

A few months ago, I started having pain in my left arm. Since panic is kind of my thing, my first thought was, “oh my god, I’m having a heart attack!” Since I wasn’t having any other heart attack symptoms and I’m prone to panic attacks, I decided that I wasn’t.

Within a few days, my hand started feeling numb, depending on my position. The pain was becoming increasingly worse as the weeks went by. I was able to trace the pain from my shoulder to my elbow and down into my hand. And then the pain started in the right arm.

Arthritis strikes again!

My new pain management doctor is part of a neurology practice. I knew I would be in good hands in discussing this new arm pain with him. At my first appointment with him, he indicated that I have bursitis in both shoulders and both hips, in addition to all of the other issues that I had in my low back.

Additionally, he ordered an MRI of my neck, a nerve conduction study and an electromyography. Fortunately, the nerve studies showed that I have no permanent nerve damage. However, I was called back in to review the results of my MRI. I have significant arthritis damage in my neck and that seems to be what is causing the nerve pain in my arms.

Fear is a difficult concept to discuss

It’s easy to simply say, “I’m really scared.” It’s not so easy to really understand what I’m so afraid of. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’ve already lost so much of my mobility. I don’t know what my life is going to look like as I get older. I don’t know what my life is going to look like tomorrow.

I spent the first ten years of my disease without proper treatment because it wasn’t yet available. Psoriatic arthritis took over my body and did immeasurable damage. I’ve had so many surgeries to repair the damage that was done during that time. The idea of spine surgery is frightening. I’ve got at least two in the near future.

The decision to embrace the fear, even for a little bit.

I'm learning that it’s okay to be afraid. None of us knows what the future holds. My fear lately exceeds that of normal times, that of a more general unknown, but I keep a positive attitude. In the end, I know that I always manage to find a silver lining. But for now, while I feel especially vulnerable. I’m going to let myself have another day or two to wallow in a little fear and self-pity.

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