Content Warning: anxiety, depression, medication, self-neglect, osteoarthritis
I have generally been a happy person. For the better part of my life, I have been content and self-confident. I have encountered my share of hardships in life and have weathered them decently well, I’d say. I do get quite anxious, but I have learned to deal with it from an early age. I know it stems from my tendency to over-analyze and overthink things, constantly worrying about the worst possible scenario.
However, I wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. I was diagnosed back in 2020, right around the time of COVID-19 and it hit me bad. I had been experiencing mild pain, which gradually became worse. After a few weeks of discomfort and suffering, I consulted a doctor and was told I have arthritis in both my hands. My thumb joint had swelled up quite badly. I was in my early 30s back then, and just couldn’t fathom being slapped with a lifelong condition I knew would slowly worsen over time. I think that was what I was mostly sad about.
With the diagnosis came the realization that I wouldn’t be able to do a whole lot of things which added to my depression and anxiety. I knew I couldn’t handle laboratory instruments, utilities and materials anymore, since they require precision. I developed a tremor in my hands while holding things, such as a cup or a bag. This hit me really hard since I have loved research ever since I set my foot inside a laboratory during my undergrad days.
I also had to give up going to the gym since holding onto anything for an extended period of time would start hurting like h*** and I remember days when I had to pop painkillers to keep the pain under control. This led me to start neglecting myself, and as a result, I did put on a few extra pounds and stopped being active altogether since I had resigned to my fate and knew there was no way out of this. Drinking anything cold or having ice cream was also off the menu since cold makes the pain worse. I started having doubts if I would ever be able to regain full functionality of both my hands without experiencing any sort of agony.
It’s 2023 now, and I am better, much better than I was in 2020. My pain is manageable and I have started being active again, even hitting the gym since I was advised that working with weights is actually beneficial for arthritis patients. I still grimace sometimes when the thumb joints are exposed to too much strain, but I am not complaining about it. I didn’t go back to research post-pandemic. I wanted to, but I am happy in my current position in the academic publishing industry. I am content, making the most out of what I have, which is what matters.