“But you’re so young!” “It’ll go away soon!” “You can’t use it as an excuse all the time!”

And other things I hear, living with chronic pain at 24 years old

Photo: Agustin Fernandez / Unsplash / Fair Use
  • Hot or cold patches for joints & ice packs
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • A crutch or a knee brace, worn almost daily
  • Lubricant injections
  • The question of surgery and whether it’s an option for me (hint: the answer is always no.)
  • Constantly looking for new homeopathic treatments for my knee
  • Pushed over on crowded buses while holding a crutch
  • Not being let to sit down on packed metros in the morning, while either holding a crutch or wearing a visible knee brace
  • Elderly citizens belittling me for sitting in priority seats and refusing to stand up for them

Such has been my life since I was 18 years old, when a sudden, amateur ice skating injury left me with a lifelong consequence in the Spring of 2014 (I wasn’t even being fancy, I was just skating along, minding my own business, until my toe pick got caught in the ice. And the rest, as they say, is history.) As a result, I live with osteoarthritis in my right knee. It has brought many difficulties with it but one of them is the many remarks that I heard on a regular basis, particularly when meeting new people. Given the fact that I often wear a knee brace, it can be visible depending on what else I’m wearing. So, I often hear the question “what’s up with your knee?” This, I don’t mind. I’m quite open about it. It’s other things that I mind. Let me share it with you…

“Have you gone to the doctor for it?”

This question bothers me with both new people that I meet but particularly from those who have known me for a while. The logic just simply doesn’t make sense to me. Surely, if I openly tell you that I have a type of arthritis, then it’s because I have already gotten a diagnosis. Is arthritis something that people self-diagnose? Surely not. In fact, if I think about it too much, it saddens me to think about the amount of money that has gone towards the many, many doctors and many, many specialists that I have gone to, all to simply receive the same run-of-the-mill answers. If we really want to get into it deeply, this lack of results and lack of being listened to could also do with the fact that I am a young woman and women’s complaints have been statistically much more dismissed, compared to men’s.

I have also grown skeptical of various things that I have been told by doctors. For one thing, it was a doctor’s misdiagnosis that led me to this situation; being told that I had only bruised my knee despite how it looked and how it felt. It led to me being forced to walk and continue various activities, sans any type of aid, on, what six months later turned out to be, a broken knee. What was I to do? I was young, I was also in the hands of a doctor who had been caring for me since I was a kid, I had also never broken a limb before so; I trusted him. But, by six months later, I was told (by a different doctor) what really happened and that treatment was too late. Take these supplements. They’ll help (hint: they did not help).

I have been to doctors. I have, in fact, been to too many doctors and, for the foreseeable future, unless things turn dire, I don’t see myself returning to doctors for this particular issue. I have been poked, prodded and scanned one too many times.

Photo: freestocks.org / Pexels / Fair Use

“But you’re so young!”

Yes, I am. It is also one of the reasons why it’s so hard to accept sometimes, even today, that this currently remains something that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. My age has nothing to do with my condition. It is simply something that came along due to an injury. And it could happen to anyone, at any age. You want to talk about age? My mother has had arthritis in her lower back since she was as young as 14. Illnesses, chronic pain and injuries don’t discriminate.

“You can’t use it as an excuse all the time!” / “You’re just being dramatic!”

There are some things that I am simply unable to do now. For example, I can’t get on my knees. Doing exercises in Pilates or yoga that requires this is almost impossible for me. In those times, I will use a pillow under my bad knee but sometimes, even that doesn’t help. Cycling, as another example, does wonders for my knee. It keeps it moving but does not put too much pressure on it (don’t ask me to mountain bike, please, let me stay cycling in the city and the parks). But, sometimes, even that is something I have to stop for a few days or a few weeks, if I’m going through a flare-up.

Some days, everything is fine. In fact, sometimes this can even last for weeks or a couple of months. Then, from one day to the next, the pain starts to settle in and I’m made aware of my knee once again. I hate being aware of my knee. Imagine it as someone having their hands constantly wrapped around your knee when you’re walking, standing, even sitting — pressing on it and cracking it whenever they see fit. This can last for even months. It’s a constant rollercoaster, going up and down.

It bothers me that many, too many, people that I have encountered in my life, would rather believe that I am only faking it or using it as some sort of excuse, rather than believe that I am truly in pain. I have had a situation before where a person refused to listen to me when I repeatedly begged for them to slow down, walk slower, let me take a break, please. I was in the middle of a terrible flare up, and I was in considerable pain. I was limping behind them with a crutch. They refused to listen. They refused to take me seriously. They made it very clear that they thought I was just “exaggerating” and being “over dramatic”.

“It’ll go away soon!”

Maybe it will. Maybe one day, by some miracle, my knee will get itself together. Or maybe, just maybe, it won’t. Arthritis is a degenerative condition. Thankfully, mine is not the type that spreads throughout a person’s body but nonetheless, it weakens my entire knee and nobody can know what it will be like in a few years time. It lacks the means to be able to function the way that it should and sadly, if supplements could not help it develop what it needs to, to be able to function normally again, I somehow doubt it will suddenly start doing it on its own. But then again, who knows?

Photo: Pharma Hemp Complex / Unsplash / Fair Use

I have been living with this long enough now. I have found what works for me. Some days, I handle it better than others. Most days, you can’t even tell that something is wrong because A. I don’t complain about my pain out loud (it would get both on my and your nerves) and B. unless I’m walking with a crutch, it’s mostly not visible. Even when I wear a knee brace, it’s usually under my clothes. But just because I don’t talk about it 24/7 does not mean that it isn’t still there. I have accepted it (although, like I said, some days it’s easier than others) and I do my best to deal with it. But there are still things that are frustrating to hear and to have to answer or clarify repeatedly. Particularly with people I have already discussed it with.

I understand that for those who do not have any kind of chronic issue, it can be hard to understand it. However, I ask you to not doubt those who do have it, who tell you what they struggle with and to have patience with them. We genuinely can’t help it, and we do our best.

Chronic pain, chronic diseases, chronic illnesses, invisible illnesses, disabilities; whatever it is that you have, and whatever you call it or identify it as, it exists in younger people too. And if you deal with comments, questions and other type of remarks like the kind of outlined here; you have my sympathies.

Brand specialist. Bookworm. Writer. Editor. Always listening to lo-fi and drinking tea☕️ Email: alexa.simonics@gmail.com

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