"People can’t see what’s happening under my skin."
Anoushka, 30, has been living with rheumatoid arthritis since she was a teenager and says the condition has stolen her health, education and career. Despite this, she is thankful for the support of her family and friends, who she says have helped her “overcome the toughest of days.”
Anoushka says: “It’s worrying how much misunderstanding there is around arthritis. When I’m out with my crutches, people will ask what’s wrong with me and they’re often in disbelief when they hear my reply. People will often say I’m too young to have joint pain and because my condition is invisible – they don’t think it’s real or they think I’m exaggerating or whinging. It hurts when I get that reaction.
“It’s certainly not just an old people’s disease. People can’t see what’s happening under my skin. When I have a flare up, I struggle to grab, hold or carry anything. Even washing my hair is now such a struggle. My dad has been truly amazing, he’s got me through the toughest days. Recently he’s been helping me hold my heavy hair dryer. You would never think that something so small would make such a big difference to me – but it does.
“Not long after I was diagnosed, I started university to train as a nurse. My lecturers didn’t appreciate how hard it was for me to get around and why I needed time off for treatments. I managed to graduate with a diploma but I felt frustrated that all my hard work hadn’t enabled me to obtain a full degree. I felt that nobody really understood what I was going through or how my arthritis impacted my daily life. After graduating, I worked part-time in children’s healthcare but my employers wanted me to be constantly available. That just wasn’t possible due to the unpredictable nature of my condition, they thought I was unreliable. I’ve actually never managed to secure a full time job because of my arthritis. I can’t live life as a healthy person but I’m determined to continue with the things I enjoy as best I can, like yoga and swimming.
“It’s frustrating having a condition that’s invisible and where people think that because I look ok on the outside, I’m perfectly fine inside. That’s why I decided to join the charity’s campaigner network a few months ago. I wanted to give a voice to those who feel their arthritis is not recognised or who have been told they are “too young” or “it’s just a bit of pain, get on with it.”
“When the charity asked me to be part of the filming for the TV ads – I couldn’t have been more excited. It was a great experience and I got to advise the actors as to how a person with arthritis would move, get up and down the stairs and around the house in general. Everyone on set made me feel like part of the team and really valued my opinions, which meant a lot to me. It was an honour to be on set and I hope that when people with arthritis watch the ads, they feel more supported and know they don’t have to go through this journey alone.”
If, like Anoushka, you have days where you struggle to carry your shopping home or feel that people around you don’t understand your arthritis, please don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to give you strength when you need it. You can call our helpline on 0800 5200 520 for advice and support.