It’s hard not to feel betrayed by your body when it decides to give you a degenerative condition when you’re 28.
Obviously, compared to many other people with far worse conditions, I’ve got it easy.
The worst thing my condition gives me is pain and reduced movement – it’s not going to kill me.
But, let’s be honest, no-one wants pain and reduced movement when they’re in their late 20s. It’s not a barrel of laughs.
And, with it being National Arthritis Week, now is a good time to talk about it.
My symptoms were minor to begin with. One of my big toes was hurting a bit when I wore heels (which were never more than a couple of inches high, because heels are to me what ice is to Bambi).
So I stopped wearing heels, but the pain didn’t go away.
I went to the doctor’s and spent a year pestering them for tests until I finally got a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in the joints of both my big toes.
Their response was to shrug, call it ‘wear and tear’ and tell me to wear trainers. All the time the pain was getting worse and worse.
An occasional twinge had turned into a permanent dull pain, with sharp flare-ups.
On an especially low day, I had to sit on a wall and rest only a two minute walk from my front door, because the pain was so bad that I couldn’t physically make it to my house.
That was after a short trip to my local shops. I couldn’t even pop to Tesco without arthritis hindering me.
I was furious with my body for doing this to me.
Now, me and my body don’t always have the best relationship (I’d prefer it if it would give the acne a rest, to be honest), but I’ve never treated it badly.
I’ve never been anything close to overweight. I never forced my feet into ridiculous pointy high-heeled shoes (comfort is WAY above fashion in my list of priorities). I eat well.
I never did any of the classic arthritis-giving exercises, like ballet or running on hard surfaces.
At the time I got my diagnosis I was doing weekly Pilates, for crying out loud. Just about the most joint-friendly form of exercise you can do.
My biggest ‘crime’ was that my posture wasn’t great. My feet rolled inwards, putting more weight on my big toe joints. (PEOPLE – CORRECT YOUR POSTURE.)
After my diagnosis I started compulsively observing people’s postures, wondering why all these people with MUCH worse feet alignment than me were fine, while I’d managed to get the old-person illness.
And I was deeply worried about my future. At the time of my diagnosis, a doctor told me that I can expect about 10 years to pass before my arthritis would deteriorate to the point of needing serious medical intervention.
So, before I’m 40 then. Great.
After a bit of wallowing, I realised I had to take control of the situation.
I started seeing an osteopath and following the exercises he gave me. I replaced all my shoes with uglier yet more expensive arthritis-friendly shoes.
It was pointed out to me that, while it sucked that I’d got this condition so young, my youth actually went in my favour when it came to treating the arthritis.
I’m not a 70-year-old who suddenly has to master Pilates in order to treat her arthritis. I’m already in good shape, and it’s easier to stay that way than get that way.
I made some changes to my diet, including adding in some vitamin supplements, eating more fish and cutting down on caffeine (man, I miss coffee).
I’m more aware of my body than I was before it started causing me pain, but that also means that I have a constant reminder to take care of it.
If I let my exercises slide, you can bet my feet will let me know about it.
But, while I’m treating my body better than ever, I’m still wary of it. I can’t just relax and enjoy it.
If my friends want to go for a walk, or spend a day strolling around a museum, I’m scared of ruining their day by hitting my walking limit and forcing them to go home early.
At parties I’m torn between dancing, enjoying the moment, and sucking up the pain for days afterwards, or taking it easy and sitting out most of the dancing.
I’m in less pain now than I have been in the last couple of years. I’m not wallowing in pity anymore.
But it’s hard not to feel a bit angry with your body when you can’t wear heels on your wedding day, or climb a mountain with your nephews.
You can find more information on arthritis and treatments for it at Arthritis Research UK. If you think you have arthritis, make an appointment with your GP.