My name is Suruthi and my diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis came at the very early age of three years old. I remember a lot of treatments and steroid injections and surgeries during my childhood but I went into remission around the age of 10 and I put this chapter of my past behind me as it wasn't exactly a fairytale.
Fast forward to my final year of sixth form, I begin having aches and pains all over but primarily in my knees. I see the doctor and come A-level results day, they confirm my arthritis is officially back (and with a bit of a vengeance too) and I am given some heavy-duty drugs to cope with it. This experience was crazy because a month later I moved to university, and was away from my parents and suddenly dealing with my condition alone. I soon had to let my university friends know my condition for days I could not attend lectures and I was often hit with 'but you could walk yesterday?' and 'I thought only old people get that?'. I was incredibly surprised at the lack of awareness around it. Later on in my first year of uni, I was mocked for my condition on social media by the housemates I was meant to be living with the following year and this was the breaking point for me. I suddenly felt like I was somewhat less of a person for my condition and people would never believe me.
It was a long journey from there but I am now in my final semester of my Masters course and I no longer treat my condition like a dirty secret. I am loud and proud and I realised I wanted to be a part of the change that allows for more awareness about invisible illnesses. I recall mentioning it to a fresher on the bus who I had got speaking to and she just hugged me and said 'you're the first person I know that is also young and has RA'. I will remember that hug for the rest of my life because I know what it meant to her and to me, and this is why I will not stop speaking up about my condition.
Invisible illnesses matter and we deserve to be seen.