“The hardest thing was talking to people about it. It’s definitely a pride thing.”
George Ivil, 21, is about to finish his final year at university studying politics. He was diagnosed with enthesitis-related arthritis when he was 15.
The two to three years following his diagnosis were a whirlwind and George experienced feelings of depression and loneliness which made life at home and at school difficult. He tells us his story.
‘I felt so low; I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone”
My condition became severe very quickly and affected my whole body. I started taking methotrexate, and everything went downhill.
The side effects were awful, it made me very sick and I experienced extreme weight loss and bad acne, which knocked my confidence.
I used to take my medication on a Wednesday and then the next day at school I was like a zombie. I wouldn’t talk to anyone, I couldn’t concentrate. I may as well not have been there. I started to feel isolated from friends and didn’t want to go out. I had been very talkative and sociable before, but my treatment made me feel down and grumpy with the people around me. I was in a lot of pain and under lots of stress physically and emotionally. I felt I had lost all my independence.
“Things improved when I changed medication”
I was referred to a different hospital where I was put on Humira, this was a turning point for me.
I had reached a point where I wanted to drop out of school. I couldn’t even watch football because it was too painful and exhausting to travel there.
My head of 6th form gave me a confidence boost and talking to him really helped push me in the right direction, he reminded me that I could achieve so much.
“Now I want to share my story with other young people going through a similar thing”
I think I still struggle coming to terms with having arthritis sometimes. It can upset me when people ask about it, because I don’t want them to make any kind of judgement based on my condition. And sometimes I try to do too much despite it.
I think the way society has created this view of a typical alpha male doesn’t help, it makes it very hard to admit things are wrong.
But I think it’s so important that people understand more about the impacts of this condition. I want to share my story with other young people going through a similar thing.
I open up about my condition more now. My family and my girlfriend are very supportive, and my friends will often ask how I am, but not make a big deal out of it. I know they’re here for me, but it’s nice feeling like I’m not being treated differently because of my condition.
“One of my main pieces of advice would simply be to talk.”
At times I would keep everything to myself rather than talk to those close to me, which would only make me feel worse. The minute I spoke to those around me I would feel so much better.
You should always be proud of who you are, realise that everything you are going through will only make you stronger, and that no matter how bad things get and how low you may feel, as cliché as it may sound, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Make sure you surround yourself with positive people, explain your situation to your friends/girlfriends/boyfriends/family, and they will only want to help.
The biggest tip I can give is to not let it stop you doing what you love. I loved football, and in the end, I could no longer play but instead I support my team Tottenham up and down the country. I have followed my passions and now have a job working in politics whilst I finish my degree. Just because you have arthritis, you don’t have to stop living life to the full.
Get the support you need
If you’ve experienced any mental health issues or would like to talk to someone about your arthritis and how it’s making you feel, please don’t suffer in silence. You can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520.
There are lots of professionals to help you through the tough times too, this could be your local GP or someone at Samaritans, Anxiety UK or Mind. If you think you need it, asking for help could be the most important thing you do today.