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Arthritis: 'I am grateful for arthritis. I’m a better person than before my diagnosis'

I don’t wish my life had taken any other path and that’s the honest truth, writes Peter Boyd.

Peter Boyd Author living with arthritis

LIVING WITH ARTHRITIS for the rest of my life is one thing. Accepting that I’ll never work again is quite another.

If I manage my rheumatoid arthritis correctly I potentially have 40 years of contributing in the workplace ahead of me. If I’m passive and leave the arthritis in control I could have 40 years of benefits and disability payments.

Even doing the right thing and fighting arthritis with all my energy, what little I have these days, is no guarantee I’ll be able to work again but I’ve got to try. The only thing that is certain in the crazy, changed, unplanned for, painful, tiring, exhausting, soul destroying, exciting, medicated, drowsy, financially insecure arthritis world is that I’ll fight it.

I’m seven years into my journey. I’m the man who spoke on behalf of Arthritis Ireland recently and said: “I stand before you 33 years old, grateful for the day I got arthritis.”

Being diagnosed

That’s skipping past a few chapters in my story, let me fill in the gaps.

In 2011, I was working as a full-time barman. On a quiet evening after a rugby match I began chatting to two regulars over the taps. Then I fell asleep.

Mid-conversation, mid-pub, mid-shift, I fell asleep. This was the final straw in work. I couldn’t get bottles from the bottom shelf, carry a crate of beer, change kegs, stand for my entire shift or take deliveries. I was no longer a barman. I sat down with the bosses and took two weeks holiday. I never went back to work.

I lost my job and my financial security but had a mortgage to pay. I had appointments with every specialist in the hospital because RA is an auto-immune condition and the inflammation affected my whole body and every system in it.

Saying no to going out with my friends led them to stop asking. With no job, no money, lots of pain and overwhelming fatigue I lost my self-confidence and self-worth. Once they went, I stopped wanting to go out at all, saw no point in minding myself.

The inevitable depression

Depression was almost inevitable some might say. I fell into a deep, ongoing, depression that I continue to battle with every day. I’ve had awful days when it all seemed too much. If I’m honest, I still do.

My turnaround has been a huge success though and I’ve done a lot of hard work to make it so. The impetus came from my family and Arthritis Ireland however.

My family have always provided the perfect blend of support and tough love, depending on the circumstance. When I needed a kick I got it but when I needed to be coaxed and cajoled I got that too.

Meeting people in the same boat as me opened doors I never knew existed when I did my Leisure Management Degree, worked as a barman and acted like the selfish person I was.

Arthritis Ireland introduced me to children, teenagers and adults of all ages living with their form of arthritis. I did the self-management course, trained to be on the helpline and, in helping others, I boosted myself. I’m now on the Board of Directors of Arthritis Ireland.

I’m a better person now

I’ve learnt skills I wouldn’t have done without arthritis. Two years ago, my confidence had been restored enough to go back into the classroom. I’ve finished studying in Dun Laoghaire Further Education Institute and have a Higher Certificate in my pocket.

It was vital I retrained. Arthritis Ireland, my family and my friends helped rebuild my confidence to a point where I could upskill and find a new career path.

So while it’s awful, I’m in more pain than ever and I hate having to inject myself every week, I am grateful for arthritis.

I’m a better person than I was before my diagnosis and I’ve learnt so many things. I’m now an intern with Cricket Ireland at one of the most exciting, and potentially historic, times for the game in this country.

I don’t wish my life had taken any other path and that’s the honest truth.

Peter Boyd, the second of four siblings, lives in Balbriggan, North County Dublin. Though not as active as he used to be, he is still passionate about watching live sport as much as possible. He also has huge interest in history and writing, and is a published author, having self-published his first novel in 2016. The RA NarRAtive patient survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Pfizer via an online survey that was distributed by local patient advocacy groups (PAGs) between March 20 – April 6, 2017 among 211 adults, ages 18+, who have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Ireland. Arthritis Ireland is Ireland’s only organisation working to provide information and support for people with arthritis. For more information on Arthritis Ireland visit www.arthritis.ie.

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Peter Boyd  / Author living with arthritis

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