Today is World Arthritis Day.
And so, as part of the #WAD2016 campaign "The future in your hands", here is a small part of my story of living with a rheumatic or musculoskeletal disorders.
As a child I was different to my peers - often injured, more easily tired, constant pain and many other issues, but those quirks didn't become permanently disabling until I reached my early 20's.
By 24 I had become a wheelchair user due to severe joint problems and pain caused by a hypermobility syndrome (probably Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) where my joints are too loose, and the ligaments are easily stretched and damaged, although I wasn't diagnosed for another year or so. I steadily deteriorated. By 29, long term sick leave from my Environmental Health career had become formal medical retirement. It was an incredibly tough time - I felt that I had lost a part of who I was.
However, during one of my hospital stays I discovered a talent for drawing stickmen. And it seemed that people understood these stickman descriptions of how I felt much better than my attempts to explain using words. The solutions to my own problems around 'how do I make them understand' became products that proved to be the solutions other people needed too.
So while volunteering for the Hypermobility Syndromes Association - which provided the support I needed in learning to pace, and to respect but not fear my conditions and to get stronger and more acitve (contemporary dance is totally awesome and works fabulously around my physically limitations!) I also found myself setting up Stickman Communicaitons - using my stickmen to help create understanding for others too.
My RMD took a career I loved, but it also gave me a new career - which I love even more.
So yes, I really do feel that my future is in my hands. Both metaphorically and physically!