Mastering a mindset: Georgia’s journey with psoriatic arthritis

13 April 2021
Georgia at home with her partner and wearing sports gear.

Georgia, 27, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at 23. She shares how mastering her mindset helped her to manage her symptoms and achieve her goals.

“I thought, ‘what on earth is that?’”

I was diagnosed aged 23 but for about a year prior I had no idea what was going on. I worked in theatre and my psoriasis started just before a tour – it was the tiniest patch on my head. Tour is a stressful environment and it started to get worse.

When my tour contract ended I started a full-time teaching job. A few months later my right foot ballooned and while fake tanning I noticed that I had a rash on my entire leg. My toes were swollen and red raw. I couldn’t walk and was using crutches. I thought, “what on earth is that?!”

“Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed.”

I was still going to the gym even though I need crutches but it got to the point where I couldn’t exercise, drive or go up the stairs. Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed. Once I had to call my housemate because I needed to go to work and they had to help me get ready.

When I eventually saw the rheumatologist and told him I have psoriasis he sent for bloods. He said I need to try and walk without crutches to get movement back in my foot. My Dad has psoriasis so we had an inkling.

It was a relief to get the diagnosis but being given drug information was more overwhelming because you have to make a decision about treatment and medication. I was offered methotrexate but for me, the side effects of methotrexate outweighed the benefits. I wanted to try another option, but I realise not everyone can do this.

“It’s almost like my body needed to reset.”

I listened to a podcast that used different wording to lots of healthcare professionals. Typically, you’re told your body is attacking itself. However, the podcast said that if you’re told your body has failed you, it adds to the problem psychologically. It helped me see things differently and take the blame away from my body, allowing me to transform my mindset ready to make a change.

I went vegan and gradually started a gentle exercise routine. Then I reintroduced chicken, turkey, fish and lastly dairy (I can eat my favourite food, cheese again!). Now I can eat whatever I want and don’t tend to get flare-ups. It’s almost like my body needed to reset.

“Once everyone stared at me and I just broke down.”

After my diagnosis I moved to London mid-flare up and started a new full-time teaching job. In winter, the heating broke in my house and I effectively stiffened overnight.

I commuted via tube and had my “please offer me a seat badge” on but the TFL workers had to get on the train and get someone to stand up to give me a seat. Once everyone stared at me and I just broke down.

“It’s annoying but you crack on as best as you can.”

My partner Lauren and I met on Tinder in September 2019. The app was connected to my Instagram and she read my bio which says I have psoriatic arthritis. She said, “I don’t mean to be rude but what does this mean?”

We have a relatively lighthearted relationship. Lauren is locked down with me this time. My right knee seized up recently walking to the coop - I just laugh now.

My biggest fear is anything happening to my hands. They started to get bad during my Marketing Msc. My finger was swelling and it was stressing me out. Lauren would get me a hot water bottle, let me get on with it and come back with a cup of tea.

Stress and the cold can give me flare-ups (sometimes you’ll see me in the summer with three pairs of socks on). Lockdown was stressful because I like the mindset of being in a routine.

When I got diagnosed my routine helped me come out of it the other end. I wanted to inspire people to do the same or at least show on my Instagram that it’s possible to try. Someone tagged me in a story and said that they hadn’t believed it was possible to start exercising.

“It’s very hard to know how you’ll feel in a situation.”

My mum has been there every step of the way. She’s a very caring person and if I’m upset, she’s there. My dad’s very much an “accept you’ve got it, now what are you going to do about it?” He’s a life coach, and sometimes the push to make change for yourself is exactly what you need. 

Sometimes you don’t want to be fussed over you just want to get on with it. And sometimes you just want a cuddle. It’s very hard to know how you’ll feel in a situation, but having a balanced support system is ideal.

“Remember, it’s not the end of your life.”

If someone says, “you’re too young to have arthritis”, I don’t get offended, I choose not to see it like that and am open to talking. Lauren and I did an LGBTQ+ bridal shoot and I wore heels, I said to the photographer, “I have a gammy foot” as this often sparks a conversation with people around my age group.

The more young people with arthritis are talked about the better – you’re not alone. So much of it is to do with your mindset - for me that’s been the biggest lesson. If you’re in pain you’re in pain, you can’t change your mind about that but it’s what you do about it. Remember, it’s not the end of your life, focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

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