Living with a chronic illness can be interesting. And it can be a pain in the ass.
I’ve had a chronic illness — rheumatoid arthritis — for most of my life. I’ve also resisted writing about it for most of my life, because I didn’t want to be “arthritis girl.“ I didn’t want to be “the sick one,” or “the crippled one” or “the girl you should feel sorry for.” People tend to put you in a box, and you know what? I am not only my illness.
Besides, people who talk endlessly about their health bore the crap out of me, and I don’t want to be that person. Even if I’m just a head in a jar at some point, because all my joints have gone to hell and my insurance won’t cover replacements, I’m not going to dominate the conversation with my aches and pains or what meds I’m on.
But lately, I’ve been wanting to write about dealing with RA, and not in the “buck up there, little camper” style you see in mags like Arthritis Today, or in some sappy, woe is me “Chicken Soup for the Soul” way. ‘Cause you know, people who deal with disabilities — and I have a disabling condition — are so “special.” Yeah, I’ll show you special!
No, I want to write down the random, current, not-so-current, stupid, funny, painful and possibly insightful stuff I’ve dealt with because of RA. And I’ve got almost 40 years of stories to tell, though I will definitely edit as needed. And since I’m a writer, I will do my best to make them entertaining.
The first installment is actually a reprint of an essay I wrote for Sirens Magazine in 2006. It’s gotten a lot of mileage, and I’m still happy with it after all these years. Future installments will likely be much shorter.
I was 12, and I was standing at my school’s snack bar, waiting to buy a sandwich. Next to me was Suzanne, who, like me, was on break from rehearsing the sixth grade play. Suzanne didn’t like me. I knew this for a fact, since she once announced it publicly. I don’t know why she disliked me. I didn’t have any classes with her; I never really spoke to her. But it was middle school. She didn’t need a reason.