Learning to Live

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Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is so life-changing. For some, things change rapidly. Some of us suffer for years, feeling the change slowly but surely. But regardless of how it comes, we all mourn. We all deal with change and long for the life we had before.

Sometimes, I think that reality is easier to deal with than the "what if's." While I completely accept the condition of my body and what might happen later, it's painful to think of what might've been if I never developed psoriatic arthritis as a child. If I had never developed an autoimmune disease, my bones would still be strong. I would never have to take medications with overpowering side effects. And my parents would never have gone through the heartbreak of having a child suffering in pain.

My passion

But of all the "what if's," there is one that haunts me daily; what if arthritis prevents me from meeting my full potential as an artist? All the other questions seem meaningless compared to this question.

I've always loved to draw and craft. Since I was very small, my parents were awed by my talent. Art was the one thing that comforted me through my diagnosis, all the treatments, and even during relapses. It's what I choose to pursue in high school and college; it's my livelihood. But arthritis is a cruel disease, and it affects everything. Especially the things you love.

Held back

My condition frustrates me daily. I'm far more clumsy than I should be due to stiff, painful joints. And nothing frustrates me more than seeing my clumsiness reflected in my artwork. I dreamt of being a photo-realistic artist, and though my work is delightful, all the smudges  and crooked lines means it will never be as realistic as I'd like.

There are days I look at all my past work, and while I appreciate it, I wonder if it could've been better. Scratch that- I know it could have been better if arthritis never stuck.  . If my hands were stronger, my lines would be tighter and proud. If my shoulders didn't scream in pain, I would have fewer unfinished sketches. If I was stronger, I would've been able to pursue my new found love of sculpture. But pain and weakness forced me to put down my pencils and rest. And I wonder how much better my work would've been if I were healthy.

Finding the light

It's so easy to feel down when you imagine the life you could've had if chronic illness didn't strike. But here's the thing- there are no guarantees in life. You never know for certain what might've been. All we know for certain is what happened, and how we want to move on from there.

Happiness can be hard to find in dark times, but it's so important to hold onto the positives. Dwelling on the negatives won't take away the pain, and I dare say it'll make it worse. In the words of John Lennon, life is what happens while we're busy making other plans.

Our unique style

Few worldly things truly make us happy. At the end of the day, it's love and enlightenment that fulfill us. We cannot have a happy life if we're always pining for something that never happened. Instead, we need to embrace our abilities!

Even though I've been very insecure of the mistakes, shaky lines, and other flaws in my art work, many people in my life love them. My art is so uniquely me, and has my own style. I didn't enjoy art as much when I focused on the mistakes. I only felt confident when I choose to embrace  it as my own unique style.

We can grow

While I do still mourn my "healthy life," there are times I'm thankful for the experiences I've had. Being chronically ill has given me  so many unique experiences and opportunities to grow from. There's no doubt that it's made me a more empathetic person. It's made me learn that a good friend is more precious than any jewel.  And I doubt I would've found my love of writing if it wasn't for starting this arthritis blog so many years ago. It might not be much, but those are the things I hold onto on days the pain is unbearable.

So maybe the chronic pain will prevent me from reaching my full potential as an artist. But that knowledge will never stop me from drawing. If I quit something everytime my arthritis got in the way, I wouldn't have accomplished anything. Life is meant to be enjoyed one day at a time, and embraced as our own unique story.


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