This is a question I’m asked commonly and the answer is no. I’m 16 and live with Juvenile Oligoarticular Arthritis and Hypermobility. This means that I’m a young person with a condition that can cause pain, inflammation, fever and rashes in less than 5 of my joints at any one time. The hypermobility means that my joints are capable of bending further than an average person.
I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (JA) and hypermobility when I was 10. At first I also thought like everyone else; isn’t that for old people. I soon learnt that there are many kids just like me, because there are more young people with arthritis than people over the age of 65 with arthritis.
At the time I was diagnosed I was doing state team gymnastics, netball and dance when I had the chance. I was told that the best option was giving up any high impact sports, which was every sport that I was doing at the time. This was fairly upsetting and left me with no goal or dream to aim for. I had no future. This point in my life I fell into a black hole, was sick of everything, hated what I had to put up with and just couldn’t be happy. Fact is I was always sad, and would snap at someone almost instantaneously. My rheumatologist (a doctor for people with arthritis and other similar conditions) referred me to a psychologist to help me. The only way to stop seeing him was to not be sad any more, and I hated seeing him. So I learnt to fake a smile and look happy even if I wasn’t. Smile. Smile for no reason, this is how I lived.
3 years ago I was informed about Camp Freedom, which happens every year for kids between the age of 7 and 17.
At this camp I made many friends and when I left I wanted to go back. I kept in touch with many of the campers that were around the same age as myself. The fact that I had made friends who go through the same thing as me, every living day of our lives made me happy. I was more than okay, although I was still in much pain and could become sick and tired extraordinarily easy, however I was happy.
The following year the next camp came around and I was over excited, mainly just to see all the friends I met the previous year. These camps were just like any other normal camp, with activities like the flying fox, abseiling, caving, kayaking, orienteering, mountain bike riding and quiz nights, movie nights and my all time favourite disco nights. Every year on the Thursday night there is a disco, and each year there is a different theme. The first time I went on camp the theme was pyjamas and the second time was halloween.
Between my second and third camp a lot of things had happened. I had lost trust in all of my friends, I was accepted in a student ANZAC tour where we go to Paris, Belgium and Turkey for three weeks, and kept on top of all my homework and study that comes with year eleven. This all occurred this year.
This year I believe has been one of the most up and down years. There has been many times where I just break down and I’m sick of everything, and continually think, “Why do I have to do this,” “I’m sick of trying,” and “I’ve had enough.” Very few of my close friends know what I really go through because I hide it away during the day, and I smile and laugh and talk and simply I do what is expected from a teenager my age, to have fun.
When the time came to go to my third but last Camp Freedom ever, I wasn’t as excited, I was scared that the friends I would make would do the same horrible stuff to the ones I’ve made before. However the friends I made gave me a ton of advice and helped me stay positive and smile because it happened and not cry because it’s over.
This years disco was themed finest wear, and so we all dressed up in our dresses and danced the night away. I may have cried for a few hours but I knew it was going to be the very last time I’d see most of them. This year’s camp may have been one of the best that I have been to!
Being 16, and in year eleven, there is a lot of pressure put onto me to do well and pass all my exams with good marks. The ANZAC Tour adds to the pressure by the high amount of fundraising we need to do to reach the target in order for us to go, without the high costs thrown on top of our parents. Everyday is a fight, is a struggle, and with all the pressure I do break down but the thing is I pick my self back up, and I keep going. I think, do and be positive.
Monday the 12th my year eleven final exams begin, but without their grade I have achieved beyond 70% in every class; Chemistry, Physics, Human Biology, English and 3ab Mathematics. So I guess its now the last straight, achieve in my exams! And then keep on rising, doing better, achieving. Aspiring to go where I want to go.
And so should you!
Think. Do. Be.
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