Updated: May 1, 2020
Psoriatic arthritis (sorry-attik arth-ry-tus) is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system is overactive and attacks healthy parts of the body. The result is pain, swelling and stiffness in and around various joints.
Invisible on the outside, painful on the inside
Psoriatic arthritis is a long-term condition that can get progressively worse. If it's severe, there's a risk of the joints becoming permanently damaged or deformed, and surgery may be needed. But if diagnosed and treated early, it's progression can be slowed down and permanent joint damage can be prevented or minimised.
Physically crippling, mentally soul destroying.
Being medically diagnosed with a long term debilitating condition is hard to accept, when you've been a healthy active person for most of your life. It started with Psoriasis, in 2000.
Psoriasis is a skin condition of an overactive production of skin cells. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every 3 to 4 weeks, but in psoriasis this process only takes about 3 to 7 days. The resulting build-up of skin cells creates itchy red skin patches that can become quite unsightly resulting in a lack of self esteem . Although the process is not fully understood, it's thought to be related to a problem with the immune system.
Ten years later, around 2010, my condition developed into Psoriatic Arthritis, with swollen hip, knee and wrist joints. I had increased pain, very poor joint strength and guided by my rheumatologist, went from one medication to another for a few years, trying to find pain relief and control over the inflammation. Slowly it subsided until 2018 when it flared up again, but this time much worse. Now in my spine as well, the pain was unbearable, I was unable to function normally and spent many months under a blanket. A trip to A&E, passing out and being admitted to hospital was a wake up call for me. I couldn't carry on like this anymore.
“We must learn to accept who we are, where we are, how we are, and then move in the direction we want to go.”
Taking more accountability for myself, I turned to Yoga. Something gentle, something calm, something kind. A place I could go, and just be me. Stiff, sore, weak and in pain. Lying on my mat, I did just what I could, no more. Initially I couldn't put any weight onto my wrists. My back was stiff as a plank of wood, my neck crackled with every turn, my knees hurt and my hips were stiff and immobile. But stretching felt SO good. It offered me a release and gave me enormous comfort.
Two years later, I am literally transformed.
Sure, I'm still stiff. No, I can't bend everything. Yes, I still ache here and there. I am not a flexible yogi. But the difference is quite remarkable. Not only can I now do a full 90minute vinyasa yoga session, with almost all the sequenced poses, including weight bearing balances, but more importantly, I am happy. I have found my therapy. I have found yoga.
I still have psoriatic arthritis. I'm still on weekly injections to control it. I still take very hot baths with healing salts for pain relief. I still ache in the damp cold weather. I still take a while to get up some days. But I have yoga, and the relief, flexibility, mobility, strength, joy, peace and calm it provides is priceless. I can live with my condition, because I have yoga.