If you can’t hide it, embrace it.
From fairly early on after being diagnosed with Arthritis, my joints started to change. I used to get embarrassed at people looking at my hands – they look like an 80-year-old woman’s hands. A newspaper reporter once wrote in what was actually a lovely article written about me, that if there was a jewelry line for the Wicked Witch of the West, I could be the hand model.
I used to wear my sleeves down over my hands to cover them up, and certainly not ever make gestures with them. But at some point of my metamorphosis, when I came out of that self-protective shell I began to learn to express myself in a more physical manner. Now I talk with my hands, use them naturally to illustrate a mood or point, and hope people look at them and that if they do wonder about my deformed fingers or scars, or my stiff movements when my lower joints are in flare, they’ll also ask.
I believe in capitalizing upon what makes me different – I was never afraid to describe myself as a reporter with a disability. As a matter of fact, I had wished that the outlets I had worked with when I was a broadcast journalist would help me to get the word out because it was very important for me to show kids with disabilities that a very dynamic and public career was possible for them.
I want people to ask questions. I have spent time as a motivational speaker for groups from school children to medical and physiotherapy students, to doctors. In the spring I plan to start a blog for people with Arthritis, and this year I will write a proposal for a book that is aimed at helping young people accept their diagnosis and future.
We spend so much of our young lives wanting to be like everyone else until eventually we want to step away from the pack. What a better way than to embrace our uniqueness – a characteristic, trait, or in my case, condition, that makes us every bit of who we are.