RArainbow

A resource blog for young women living with (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis


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How to feel confident when people stare at you because you limp

When my (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis is acting up, it makes me feel drained and tired. Instead of feeling like a young woman, I feel like I have lived through a war and I’ve somehow fast-forwarded into my 90s. I imagine that my hair is grey and that I look haggard. I try to hide my pain, but I still fear it’ll show on my face that I feel worn down. My knees stiffen and I hobble, hoping that no one will notice that I am limping badly. I don’t want any attention at this point. I certainly don’t want any cute guys to stare at me while I’m in such a state! If they came over I’d run (well, hobble) in the other direction because I wouldn’t want any of them to see me limping. I just want to fade into the background and I don’t want anyone to look at me.

Have any of you ever felt like this when you limp? That’s a pretty sad way for a young woman (or man, or person of any age) to feel, right? I sure think so. flowerWhen I was younger, that’s how I’d feel when my problematic ankles and knees caused me to limp and I had to walk in public. I felt self-conscious, especially because people would stare. It was tough dealing with stares as a child, but gradually I got used to it. As I grew up, my skin thickened, I became more confident in myself and I learned to not worry about what other persons thought. It’s only natural that persons will stare (though it’s still rude!) at something they’re not used to seeing. Now that I have a fused ankle, my limp comes about more often, which means my feet are getting stared at a lot. It took some time to get used to the almost-constant stares, but I’ve been working at accepting it as part of the amazing-young-people-with-arthritis situation ;). I’d like to share some Rainbow tips with you 😉 :

1. Let’s start with the superficial first. Take pride in your appearance. Okay, so you’re limping. You might have some joint damage so your hands look a bit crooked, your knees a bit swollen and your elbow can’t straighten. That does NOT mean you’ve suddenly become unattractive and are now disqualified from ever looking beautiful! You are beautiful at this moment. So dress your beautiful body in whatever you love. Get rid of the oversized pants and wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself. You’re already standing out with your limp so you might as well stop trying to fade into the background. That isn’t going to happen. Put on a little make-up or do your hair. Paint your toe nails in your favourite colour since your feet are getting all this extra attention ;). It doesn’t matter what you wear specifically. The key here is that you must feel good about how you look, no matter what physical challenges you are dealing with. There’s no need to hide your beautiful self. Let’s treat our bodies kindly, ladies.

2. You’re getting attention. Make the most of it. Sometimes when I’m limping I catch people staring at my feet. I also have a surgery scar on one of my ankles and I often find guys staring at it in surprise. I usually ignore stares, but sometimes I’ll smile at my starers. It catches them off guard. Sometimes they look surprised and sometimes they smile back. Sometimes they get embarrassed and tell me hello. A smile is an amazing way to soften a tense situation. Now, I don’t really recommend you go around smiling at strangers like you’re crazy. But once in a while you can try it and see what reactions you get. If you prefer not to smile, then at least try to enjoy the attention a little bit. Which brings me to the next point….

3. Everyone is staring at you. Including cute guys your own age. You’re a beautiful young woman. Enjoy it! Guess what, friends? Many women pay big bucks for beauty products, make-up, clothes, breast implants etc. just so they can stand out from the mass of females and get attention. Congratulations to you – all you have to do is walk and people will notice you. And some of these people are definitely going to be guys your own age. I know that sounds deathly scary when you are limping, but think about this: even if a guy is noticing your limp (or walking aid, or wheelchair, or surgery scar), he is still noticing you. Whether we want this attention or not, guys are noticing us because we stand out due to the way we walk. I want you to realize that limping doesn’t make you unattractive – it’s just means you walk differently. No decent guy is going to care that you limp. A truly decent guy is going to be concerned and will want to make sure you aren’t stressing your body. Soon after my ankle surgery, I remember heading out to the supermarket to do some shopping. I was sporting a fresh surgery scar, an amazing limp and a glamorous granny-style cane to help me steady myself as I learned how to walk again. I remember most people STARING at me, but I ignored it because I was just happy to be able to walk again. I also remember a lot of young guys staring and then smiling encouragingly at me. Although it was weird being stared at by almost every person that day, it was not a completely negative experience.

4. Love yourself with your limp. Or walking stick. Or brace. In the past I’ve written about loving ourselves and learning to accept our physical limitations with arthritis as well as the way arthritis may physically affect our bodies. Part of accepting arthritis means embracing everything about this disease  – including the fact that we may limp from time to time (or all the time),  or that we may have to use walking aids or wheelchairs. There is no shame in any of this. I’ve learned to accept that I am a woman who sometimes walks with a limp, in addition to possessing so many other qualities. Loving ourselves and growing that confidence with arthritis can take some time, but we surely deserve it for everything we endure every day. Do you agree? If we are always going to be stared at, we might as well start enjoying this attention, don’t you think? Let’s love ourselves, love the way we walk and feel comfortable. And if we feel brave enough, smile :D. It is just too much pressure to walk around feeling insecure about something which is part of us. Once we show that we are comfortable and confident, it will make others feel comfortable too and they will hopefully be able to see beyond the limp.

Further reading:

Readers, how do you deal with stares from strangers due to your limp, walking aid etc.? Please share your suggestions, questions or experiences so we can all learn together. Thank you!

Hope you’re all well,
❤ Ms. Rainbow

[Image by pixabay.com]

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Holiday party tips: Juvenile Arthritis style

Hi everyone! Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching and, for many ladies, this means dressing up and going out to fancy parties with friends and loved ones. As you all know, having autoimmune arthritis can really sap your energy. Personally, my arthritis is currently quite active as I’ve become allergic to both Actemra and Remicade 😦  and I’m waiting a bit before I try a new treatment. With a limited supply of energy (spoons!), spending an hour using my flat iron is not at the top of my priority list these days. But, I think we all deserve to look and feel beautiful, even if we are flaring with arthritis. Do you agree? 😉

In this post I’ve compiled some tips for looking put together and preparing for a party even if our arthritis is active and our energy is limited. I hope you’ll find them helpful. Please share any tips and tricks you have so that we can all learn together. 😉

1. Managing our hair
I’ve written a bit about hair care in the past (click here to read). If you have difficulty caring for your hair, but still want to maintain a stylish look, consider getting a haircut. It will make shampooing and styling a lot easier on the joints. Lucky for us, super-short hair and pixie cuts are very fashionable these days. This article from Marie Claire gives some pretty examples of hairstyles you can consider.

When you have arthritis, holding a blow dryer or flat iron for more than a few minutes can be a very painful experience. If you’re experiencing pain, skip the blow drying, rub a little bit of hair serum onto your hair and allow to air-dry.

I found some creative, “lazy” hairstyle ideas on Pinterest, which you can view here for some inspiration. This article from TheDailyMuse.com also lists some easy ideas for styling hair, while the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Hair Care by BeautyRiot.com gives some tips on looking stylish without too much effort.

2. Make-up
If you’re flaring, putting on make-up is probably the least of your worries. But you can still look polished even without a full face of make-up. Consider applying a little eye-liner or a dab of lipstick/tinted lip balm to brighten your face. If you need coverage on your face, think about using a tinted moisturizer or a BB cream to even out your complexion.

3. Shoes
Shoes, shoes, shoes. With the cold weather affecting many of us, this season may bring some extra joint pain and stiffness. That means wearing shoes that are supportive and comfortable, which will aid our walking and hopefully minimize potential joint damage. Now, while wearing our fabulously supportive and comfy arthritis-friendly shoes, it’s very likely that when we go to our Christmas parties the following situation is going to happen:

flats

[Hehe. How many of us can relate to the cartoon above? I want to give a huge thanks to Ms. Bianca from 80 Year Old Teenager for letting me use her drawing. She is so talented and I love her comics! :)]

But you know what? Even if you are the only girl at the party not wearing heels, make sure you rock out your comfy shoes. 😉 Opt for comfortable boots (which will not only support your ankles, but keep them warm), sandals and flats. If you need more arch support, insert insoles/supports into your shoes. Check out BarkingDogShoes.com for some cute, comfortable shoe ideas. I wrote a post on saying goodbye to high-heels a while back which you can check out here for more ideas.

4. Keep warm!
As I mentioned in the point above, the colder weather tends to affect many of us. Ensure that you dress warmly so that your joints can be comfortable. Wear layers, jackets, leggings, scarves and boots to help keep joints warm.

5. Walk with back-up pills
You never know when a flare is going to hit, so make sure you walk with some (doctor-approved) pain medication just in case you need it.

6. Go easy on the alcohol
(Please make sure you’re of legal drinking age if you do plan to consume alcohol.) If you are going to drink at a party, make sure that there will be no interaction with the medications you’re taking. We have enough on our plates without worrying that the alcohol will interact with the medications and cause more trouble for our bodies. Doctors often give warnings about consuming alcohol while taking Methotrexate, so make sure it’s safe to have a drink if you plan to do so.

7. Be confident and have fun!
accessoryYep! It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Even though arthritis may make us feel crappy and may even hinder our abilities to groom ourselves, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go out and take part in the festivities. If you are having problems styling your hair, or your hair is falling out due to side-effects of medications, or your face is puffy due to Prednisolone or you can’t wear heels and indeed find yourself being the only girl at the party wearing flat shoes….don’t worry about it. Use your limited energy to go out and have yourself a good time this holiday season. Hey, after everything we go through with our arthritis, I think we all deserve it.  😉

 

Readers, if you have any holiday tips of your own, please share them in the comments below. Thank you! 🙂

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone!
Love and best wishes,
Ms. Rainbow


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Pro Infirmis – “Because who is perfect?” campaign

Hello everyone! Today I wanted to share this amazing video which was created for International Day of Persons with Disabilities earlier this month.

The video’s description states: “Disabled mannequins will be eliciting astonished looks from passers-by on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse today. Between the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions. One will have shortened limbs; the other a malformed spine. The campaign has been devised for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by Pro Infirmis, an organisation for the disabled. Entitled “Because who is perfect? Get closer.”, it is designed to provoke reflection on the acceptance of people with disabilities. Director Alain Gsponer has captured the campaign as a short film.”

Personally, I loved this video and everything it stands for. Our world has become seemingly obsessed with the idea of “perfection” and “perfect” bodies (whatever that may mean). So where do persons with disabilities/physical challenges/illness stand in this scenario? Not only do we have to contend with the typical pressures of weight and height which a healthy person faces – but we often have to deal with the fact that our bodies may be physically different from that of a healthy person. Some of us have joint damage, crooked limbs, wheelchairs, walking aids etc. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are fighters and we are dealing with our situations as best as we can – and I salute all of us for it.

By showcasing the mannequins with disabilities, the managers thrust these body types into the spotlight and made the statement that these bodies are worthy and beautiful. And they sure are.

Mark Zumbühl of the Pro Infirmis Executive Board summarizes the heart of the campaign perfectly: “We often go chasing after ideals instead of accepting life in all its diversity. Pro Infirmis strives especially for the acceptance of disability and the inclusion of people with disabilities.”

So true, right? If we spend all our energy on these conditioned ideals, we may lose out on the beauty right around us. Every person deserves to feel beautiful and to feel accepted. I don’t know why our world has become so overly-critical about appearance and why many people enjoy being mean and putting other people down. But if people are being mean to you, please don’t listen to them. Rather, listen to yourself. If you body has been affected by illness or you were born a little different from others, what does it matter? You are still capable and you are still you. And that’s pretty beautiful. 😉

Readers, what do you think of the video? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

Thanks!
Ms. Rainbow


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Strong hands and beautiful joints

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all okay
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken.

Hands – Jewel

Some of you may be familiar with the lyrics of the beautiful song “Hands” by Jewel. Though it is not intended to be about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) or other forms of autoimmune arthritis, I think it can apply very well to our situations. Worrying is part of living with illness, but we often reach a point where we realize that we cannot control what’s happening. And from there, we learn to accept and make the best of our situations. The lyrics of the song also apply literally, because when we get Rheumatoid Arthritis our hands are often affected. And that’s what I want to speak about today, among other things.

How many of you reading this have arthritis in your hands? How many of you have joint “deformities” as a result of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or other types of autoimmune arthritis?

I was diagnosed with JRA at age 7 and by age 8 my right wrist had completely fused and my left had partially fused. A couple of my fingers have what is referred to as “boutonnièrre deformity.” (I plan to have  another discussion on the word “deformity” another time, it’s coming 😉 ). Over time most of my joints have gotten affected and some look a bit squishy and bony and wonky (very scientific terms, I know ;)).

handsI know a lot of us are self-conscious about the way arthritis has affected our hands and other joints. Maybe it’s because I grew up with my damaged joints, but I have never seen them as that big of a deal. My “deformities” are part of me. They’re my fingers and my hands and my joints and they have been through so much pain already. My poor fused ankle has been through two surgeries and I think it’s an incredibly resilient body part.

If anyone makes fun of your joints, don’t ever allow that to make you feel bad about yourself. Your situation is incredibly unique and your body has been affected by aggressive arthritis. Why should you feel bad about that? If you are scared about people teasing you about your deformities, think about it like this: the people who tease you are likely not people you’d want to be friends with if they’re that unkind. The people who take the time to listen to you and learn about your affected joints are extra-special, so when you find them, make sure you cherish them. 🙂

If you are worried about gentlemen friends freaking out when they go to hold your hands, put those fears to rest. A guy who loves you is going to be happy to hold your hands no matter what they look like. Promise! 🙂

Our Arthritis-affected hands are strong and allow us to write exams, to cook, to drive, to sew and to give hugs. Our affected joints allow us to work, to travel and to care for our families. Let’s give our bodies the credit they deserve. They are fighting a battle every day and they are so strong!

Remember also that having autoimmune arthritis isn’t a typical situation which every person experiences. My JRA has taught me to be stronger and to look beyond physical appearances. It’s also taught me to look beyond what persons may say about my body. At the end of the day, those comments don’t affect how our bodies perform physically. So let’s take pride in our bodies, our strengths and our abilities and love ourselves with our arthritis. Elizabeth of That Girl With Arthritis wrote a very inspiring post about being “Chronically extraordinary” and I have to say I completely agree! 🙂

Let’s keep pushing on with our beautifully strong joints and chronically extraordinary selves. 😉

Readers, how do you feel about your affected joints? What has your condition taught you? Feel free to discuss these questions in the comments or leave advice for those who are still learning to accept their amazingly beautiful bodies.

All the best!

Ms. Rainbow

[Image by pixabay.com]


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Some words on bullying, teasing and the negative comments which people make

crocWhen you grow up with a disease like Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, it’s likely that your body may be physically affected by it if it’s not treated right away. Many of us have damaged joints, “deformities”, problematic eyes, thin bones due to osteoporosis and stunted growth. Some of us need walking aids and wheelchairs to get around. Many of us walk with limps because our ankles, knees and hips are damaged and painful. The medications can also have effects on our weight and our appearances. But you know what? Like the cool kids we are, we deal with it. We learn to get through these challenges and continue living our lives with JRA walking by our side.

But sometimes, worse than the physical pain of autoimmune arthritis is the emotional pain which comes when persons tease us or make negative comments pertaining to our situations. Browsing through arthritis blogs or forums, I’ve read countless stories about kids being teased because of the way they walk or because they have developed the characteristic “moon face” from prednisolone usage.

How many of you reading this have been teased due to the way autoimmune arthritis has affected your bodies and your situations?

The really sad reality is that bullying isn’t limited to just kids with illness, but virtually anyone. Bullying isn’t confined just to schools either. Even adults bully one other. I’m a grown 28-year old woman and I still encounter persons who go out of their way to speak negatively about my tiny size or my lack of physical strength. But with limited energy (and spoons ;)), I have learned to pay them no attention.

Just as we can handle our JRA, we can handle the negativity. We have to learn to deal with it. As we go through life we are often going to meet negative people, but we have to be strong enough to not let anyone tear us down and keep us from accomplishing our goals.

If you are young and being bullied in school, speak to your parents or teachers who will be able to guide you best as every situation is unique. I found a few really great articles on bullying and how to handle a bully and have included those links at the end of this post. As we get older, however, we can’t always run to our parents or teachers to protect us – we need to learn to be strong from the inside, so that we can protect ourselves. It may take some time, but I want you to work at loving yourself and being so strong on the inside that nothing can get you down.

If someone makes negative comments about your body or your JRA situation, consider these points:

1. Those negative comments are just one person’s opinion and don’t reflect who you are. You know yourself best and you know how much you’re worth. That person who teased you has no idea what you endure on a daily basis or how amazing you are. Let those unkind words fall to the ground and don’t carry them with you. Don’t allow one person’s words to break your beautiful spirit.

2. People who use their energy to tease others are often insecure in their own lives. If you dig a little deeper into the lives of the person who teases you, you’ll often find that they are unhappy about something in their lives. They try to divert attention away from their insecurities by teasing others. Ironically, I’ve often found that persons who bully are the ones who need the most support.

3. You have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and your situation is completely unique. Remember that. JRA affects each of us differently, depending on the age we are diagnosed and the aggressiveness of our conditions. If someone makes negative comments about your body, pay them no attention. You cannot compare your body to any other person’s body, not even someone else who is living with the same condition. Take that pressure off yourself and enjoy and love your body exactly the way it is, no matter what anyone says.

4. You can stand up for yourself. When I say stand up for yourself, I do not mean fighting. But you can defend yourself. You can explain to persons that you have JRA and it has affected your body. You can tell them that their words are hurtful. You can simply shrug or laugh it off. Bullies are often looking for an easy target. When people see that you are willing to defend yourself, they are less likely to continue because they want to avoid the confrontation.

5. You can walk away. In life we have to know when to fight and when to walk away. Many persons bully because they want to get a reaction. When you stay calm and don’t allow yourself to get bothered by their words, they often feel defeated and move on.

Guys and girls, I know it’s hard. JRA already takes so much energy out of us and having to deal with negativity at the same time is tough. But please don’t allow the insensitive words of others (who have no idea what it’s like to live with chronic disease) to bring you down. You all have such amazing and beautiful spirits and it would be really sad if those spirits faded because of a few nasty words made by a silly person. Make yourself so strong on the inside that no one can get you down! 🙂

Readers, if you have any stories to share or advice for dealing with negativity, feel free to discuss it in the comments.


I found some links to great articles on this topic which you may find useful:

 

Keep strong everyone!

Ms. Rainbow

 
[Image by pixabay.com]


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Goodbye high-heels/How to feel confident while wearing grandma shoes when you’re not a grandma (or even if you are)

[Disclaimer: Grandmas are beautiful and strong women who often give us strength. This post is not intended to offend anyone who is a grandmother. ;)]

Hi everyone! Today I’m discussing a topic which is often a source of frustration for young women who are growing up with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis:

High-heels. Whenever I turn on the television I’m flooded with images of women modelling infinite variations of sky-high heels. When I go out to parties it seems that every young woman is decked out in the latest high-heeled style. When I was growing up, even my Barbie doll’s ankles were permanently bent at an angle so she could wear heels. In our society we tend to associate high-heels with sexiness, womanhood and overall female va-va voom, right?

heelsWhen you have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, however, wearing high heels is sometimes a painful and physically impossible feat (pun intended ;)), as you might have swollen, painful joints which may be damaged or even fused. So how do women (especially young women) feel when they can’t participate in a trend which has become such an integral part of being a woman in our western culture?

As a teen I loved my heels, as painful as they were on my JRA-affected ankles and knees. Wearing heels made me feel good about myself… and also helped me from drowning in crowds of people, as I am not very tall! 🙂 However, by the age of 25 one of my ankles had become so damaged and fused that walking in heels became physically impossible (and painful), so I was forced to say goodbye to my heels. Fashion has had to take a backseat as I now wear flat shoes with lots of support. Sensible shoes have taken the place of fancy strappy heels. I know that when I dress up with flats, my look doesn’t quite have that va-va voom effect that my friends have with their high heels. But it’s okay. I might not have heels to give me that va-va voom effect, so I try to get my va-va voom from the inside. 😉 While they may not be “sexy” to many persons, I am determined to rock my comfy grandma shoes and my grandpa-style loafers. Do you think we can start a new RA-friendly shoe trend, ladies?

I still think heels make a woman look sexy, but now I think that sexiness – true sexiness – comes from the inside, from your personality and who you are. It comes from your confidence as a woman, which in turn comes from how much you love yourself. And unlike heels, that inner sexiness and confidence stays with you always, even when your shoes are off.

My dear beautiful ladies, if you can’t wear heels:

1. Love yourself! Learn to love everything about your unique self. Whether you can wear heels or not should not impact how you feel about yourself on the inside. With or without heels you are still a beautiful woman who has a lot to offer this world – make sure you remember that! Think about the qualities you like about yourself and realize how amazing you are. 😉

2. Do activities you enjoy, such as sports, art, cooking, singing, learning a new language, playing an instrument etc. – whatever makes you happy, go for it. Doing activities we love helps us to feel happier and more confident in our abilities.

3. Realize your skills, strength and unique personality and get your confidence from that. You might not have the confidence booster of wearing heels, but you can show off your beautiful personality and unique talents instead.

4. Rock those grandma shoes! Whatever shoes you’re wearing, wear them confidently. So what if every young woman is wearing heels and towering over you as you showcase your comfortable grandpa-loafers? Be confident in yourself and give those comfy shoes the love they deserve by showing them off proudly!

5. Find cute flat shoes. If you can’t wear heels, that doesn’t mean you can’t look cute and polished. Try looking for comfortable flat boots, ballet flats, loafers or sandals. I found some great fashion tips for ladies who are unable to wear heels in this article from About.com. There are actually many pretty shoes which you can wear if your ankles are weak, although it might take some effort to find them. Check out BarkingDogShoes.com which reviews comfortable shoes for problematic feet. If you find cute flats which don’t offer enough support, try adding insoles for extra comfort. Kiran from The Life of a Porcelain Doll shares some very useful shoe tips for young ladies with JRA in this article.

I know that many young women who have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis struggle between being fashionable and being in pain due to JRA-affected ankles, knees and hips. Remember that shoe styles may come and go, but your personality will always be in. So make sure you show it off. 😉

Readers, feel free to share your shoe stories or recommendations in the comments below!

 

Until next time,

Take care of those feet ladies! 🙂

Ms. Rainbow

 

[Image by pixabay.com]


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Loving yourself with (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis

girlAlthough (Juvenile) Rheumatoid Arthritis causes internal pain and damage, it can also affect our bodies physically, which can in turn affect how we feel about our bodies as young women.  Apart from causing us to limp and have to use braces, orthopaedic shoes, walking aids or wheelchairs, JRA can destroy joint tissue and affect the growth of our bones, especially when it affects young children whose bodies are still growing. Gaining muscle mass may be difficult when joints are painful and damaged. Scars remain where we’ve had replacements or joint surgery. In addition, medications can have side effects which are seen physically. Methotrexate is known to cause hair to fall out, while corticosteroids are infamous for causing rapid weight gain and a “moon face” and can lead to early osteoporosis in the long-term.

But you know what? JRA or no JRA, we deserve to be loved by ourselves. Do you agree?

JRA (and heavy usage of corticosteroids) has made me a super petite woman. My joints all look a bit wonky and creak-creak-creak like nobody’s business. Growing up, many people would make fun of my body, as I’m sure many of you reading this have experienced yourselves. It hurt and I cried many nights into my pillow over it, but you know what? I still liked my body. I liked my body because I knew for a fact that it was incredibly strong to withstand all that pain. My joints were sick and they were mine and I had to take care of them and love them, just as I took care of my Barbie dolls when their arms and legs broke off and I had to tape them back together. I knew my body was a little different, but it was okay. I was fighting bigger battles and I knew I had to stay focused and take care of myself. In learning to accept JRA into my life, I also learned to let go of other people’s negativity and my self-consciousness and to accept how it was affecting my body.

As I got older, my situation got better. I continued being myself and doing whatever I was passionate about. At college I joined clubs, I danced the nights away with friends and I enjoyed my classes. I was studying English at the time and I was always surprised when guys would lure me into discussions about Shakespeare, even if it was 3am and we were at a party. They respected my opinions, they liked my jokes and they liked me, tiny JRA body and all. They didn’t seem to notice my crooked joints and swollen fingers and super-creaky elbows. Even if they did, they never mentioned it – because in the big picture I realized those things didn’t matter.

I also realized that whether guys found me attractive or not wasn’t something I should worry about. Truly, the opinion which mattered the most was my own. If you love yourself you feel happy, comfortable and at peace and no one can take that away from you. If someone doesn’t find you attractive, so be it. If someone does find you attractive, it’s flattering but that shouldn’t be the validation you need to feel good about your body. Do you agree? Even if you think no one sees beauty in your body, I want you to see the beauty in your body. See the beauty in your body which has experienced hard times but is still trooping along.

You might think that the marks of (J)RA detract from your beauty, but you know what I see when I read through arthritis blogs? I see truly beautiful and strong women who are fighting for their dreams with the cards they’ve been dealt. Elizabeth of The Girl With Arthritis wrote this wonderful piece where she referred to all the physical marks of auto-immune arthritis as our “battle scars.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. When you have JRA you’re fighting a battle every day and sometimes the effects of that battle show on your body. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of – if anything, your battle scars show what your body has endured. They are beautiful. So wear them proudly and with your head held high.

I know that when we turn on the television and look at magazines we see image after image of perfectly toned women with sculpted arms and legs – and healthy joints. We hear our friends obsessing about how they’ll have the perfect body once they keep working out. For us, it may seem like we never had a shot at that “perfect” body because of JRA. But you know what? Your body is perfect just the way it is at this very moment – because it’s yours.

Let’s love ourselves ladies. Our bodies are going through a lot – let’s be kind to them and love them, exactly the way they are.

Love your hands, love your joints, love your face even when you’re taking corticosteroids, love your uneven bones, love your hair even when you can’t brush it and love your scars. Love your reliable wheelchair which takes you everywhere you want to go. Love your unique personality, love your strength, love your talents and love your quirks. Before you go seeking love from other persons, first learn to love yourself. You deserve to be loved by yourself. Don’t you think so?

Loving ourselves takes time and is a process. There are still days when I look at my bones and joints and realize how physically fragile they are. It scares me but I try to love them anyway – because they deserve to be loved. If you don’t love yourself already, I want you to start trying. Start learning to love every single thing which makes you who you are.

As women with (J)RA, I think the most important “I love you” we’ll ever say in life is the one we say to ourselves.

So even if it takes time, let’s make sure we learn to say it. 😉

 

Wishing you all the best, pretty ladies 🙂

Ms. Rainbow

[Image source: graphicsfairy.blogspot.com]


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How to care for your hair when you have (J)RA

Mr. Llama with amazing hair

Mr. Llama with amazing hair

Part of growing up as a young woman is having fun with your appearance and experimenting with your style, particularly your hair. However, when you have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, focusing on your appearance can be painful and tedious. If you’re like me and have painful, weak wrists and fingers, taking proper care of your hair can become difficult. Today I’m going to share some RA-friendly tips on managing your hair, so that you can be as stylish as cute Mr. Llama in the picture. 😉

1.Eat properly and get the right nutrition
With our wacky immune systems, we need all the support we can get. Proper nutrition is necessary not just for healthy growth of hair, but for our overall well-beings and health. Make an effort to eat more balanced meals. This article from WebMD.com gives some recommendations for foods which improve the condition of our hair. I know that many RA patients are on strict diets, so please consult with a doctor before making changes to your diet.

2. Hair length
If your wrists and fingers are too painful to allow you to comb your hair, it makes sense to get a shorter haircut which will be easier to manage. You’ll have less shampooing and less brushing to do. Short hair has become very fashionable these days (just look at Rihanna), so you have a range of trendy styles to choose from. Check out short-haircut.com for some very fun and edgy styles for short hair.

3. Apple cider vinegar
It sounds crazy to put apple cider vinegar in your hair, but I’ve found it gets my hair really clean. After you shampoo, give your hair a rinse with equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar. There’s no need to condition afterwards, but I still do it to make sure that vinegar smell gets out! Apart from keeping your hair shiny and soft, apple cider vinegar does an amazing job of removing build up from your hair and getting it totally clean. This is perfect for persons like me who have difficulty shampooing their hair properly. You can read more about the benefits of apple cider vinegar in this article from HuffingtonPost.com.

4. Find the right brush for your hands
With fused wrists, I sometimes find it difficult to brush my hair properly. For me, I’ve found that round brushes with rubber handles work well, as I’m able to grip them better. Search around in your beauty store for a brush that is comfortable for you.

5. Knots and tangles
If your hair is really thick, using a detangling product or hair serum can help soften the hair and make brushing easier. Hot oil treatments can also help soften hair. I sometimes apply coconut oil to my hair before shampooing and let it sit for about 15 minutes to an hour. It helps with the tangles and makes brushing easier (and is supposed to make hair healthier overall).

6. Chemical straightening
Since my hair is naturally wavy, I decided one time to get it chemically straightened at the salon. I loved the results because I had no need to brush my hair! Although I prefer the versatility of wavy hair, doing the chemical straightening really helped me out as I did not have to struggle with styling tools or hairbrushes in the mornings. If you are going to do chemical treatments to your hair, please get it done by a reputable hair-dresser as the chemicals used are extremely strong (and toxic). If you are taking strong medications, discuss with your doctor whether chemical hair treatments would be suitable for you. I know that Methotrexate has the side effect of causing hair to fall out, so I would be a bit wary of putting chemicals in my hair if I’m already experiencing hair loss. Again, discuss with your doctor.

7.Leave-in conditioner
Most women style their hair with blow-dryers, flat irons and curling irons. But there are days when I can’t do this. I usually just apply a leave-in conditioner after washing my hair, which helps keep it smooth and frizz-free.

8. Air-dry instead of blow-dry
Blow dryers can be painful to manage, so skip them altogether and let your hair air-dry.

9. Enjoy your hair, just like Mr. Llama
No matter what hair looks like, whether it’s thinning or dropping due to the side-effects of medication, or whether it’s magnificent like a lion’s mane, enjoy your hair. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having trouble styling your hair like your peers. Enjoy what you’ve got and rock it out like Mr. Llama 😉

Check out the links below for more information on managing and styling hair:

Hair care with RA: http://midatlanticarthritis.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/arthritis-hair-we-go-tips-for-hair-care-with-rheumatic-illness-or-chronic-pain
No-heat hairstyles: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/style/no-heat-hairstlyes.htm

 

Wishing you all great hair days! :mrgreen:

Ms. Rainbow

Image provided by pixabay.com.