Shannon’s guest post is the 39th post in the segment on my blog, called “The Reality Of…” which gives others the ability to share their story and raise awareness of the disabilities, illnesses, impairments and invisible illnesses that they have.
Hi there! My name is Shannon; I’m a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland. I live with my wonderful girlfriend Christina and I work full time in a very busy office environment.
I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) in 2013 when I was 19 years old. I will never be cured and my symptoms will never improve – I can only deteriorate further. The PsA currently directly affects my hips and knees – these joints all have suffered deterioration. However, the damage to these joints has also caused problems with my back, spine, neck, feet and shoulders.
I also suffer from a lot of hand pain and swelling. When I was diagnosed, I was studying Computer Science with dreams of making a career of it. I was forced to withdraw from University due to my condition – I received a total left hip replacement in early 2016 when I was 21 years old.
Mornings are tough – my joints are stiff and it takes a few hours to loosen up my body. I have constant pain all over; when I walk it feels like I am walking on hot glass – my feet burn, my knees burn, my hips burn and I get sharp pains in them all.
My knees are always swollen and full of fluid, sometimes they are extremely swollen to the point I walk with a really bad limp. I have limited mobility of my knees and simply can’t kneel anymore – it feels like my knees are going to snap when I try.
I have an extremely tender and stiff back; my girlfriend always offers to give me a massage but the slightest pressure is agonising. My hands have recently started to swell and one finger seems to have bent, I have had x-rays which confirmed the joints are fine. Just another mystery added to the list.
Psoriatic Arthritis is an autoimmune disease – meaning I am extremely fatigued 24/7. Gone are the days of tossing and turning trying to sleep – I’m out like a light within minutes. It is currently the early afternoon and I could easily sleep for hours. I wake up every morning through the week at approx. 06:45am, by 9:00am I am exhausted a lot of time.
Being tired is just something I am accustomed to now. When life gave me arthritis, they decided to give me a 2-for-1 special and also give me Psoriasis (hence Psoriatic Arthritis).
How It Affects Me
My life has flip-turned upside down *intentional Fresh Prince reference* since I was diagnosed. I appreciate the little things a lot more, when I wake up on a good day and don’t wince when I stand up, I really feel good. I think we all take normality for granted while we have it, and regret it when we don’t. Since my diagnosis I left University and started a full-time job 3 days later, I decided to stay in employment and turn my focus to building a career path rather than return to education.
I was also forced to quit the only sport I was ever any good at – MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). I’m not saying I was brilliant at it, but after 4/5 years of training I would like to think I was as good as anyone in the room. It’s an incredibly demanding sport physically so I simply couldn’t continue training – it’s something I miss very much in life.
I am nowhere near as active as I once was, it makes me come across as lazy but sometimes I really just don’t feel able to go and do some things – some days the pain and fatigue is just too much to handle. Lastly and in my opinion most importantly, I realised just how much support I have around me – especially from my family and my girlfriend. They were there for me every step of the way and helped me at every opportunity.
How It Has Changed Me
I think I am still the same person I was when I was 18 – possibly a more mature version of myself but I think that would have come with age anyway. It’s hard to tell if my condition has changed me personally, it’s just part of my life now and it’s hard to imagine life without it. I do have to admit though, that it has affected me mentally.
I have had a few brief run-ins with depression and anxiety since my diagnosis. I can’t say for sure that the direct cause of this is my condition but I do suspect it. I often worry about the future and how my condition will progress, considering I was diagnosed so young. Lastly, it has literally changed me physically – I have an artificial hip!
My Favourite Superhero & Villain
Oh, the irony, a question about superheroes and I happen to be wearing a Marvel jumper. My favourite superhero is Spiderman, who doesn’t love him. I also love Carnage – a villain from the same universe. If you’re awaiting the next Venom movie, you’ll meet him and understand why.
Thank you for taking the time to read this brief summary of my experiences so far. I go in to a lot more detail over on my blog – Me vs Arthritis.
Thanks Shannon for sharing your story with my readers and me!