Throughout the entirety of my life, I have heard older men and women complaining about their red, swollen, painful, and arthritis ridden joints. They would grumble about how they cannot now run in fields of luscious green grass or go for long walks along the beach to watch the sun dip below the horizon, blazing with fabulous colours.

Never in my life would I have thought that I would be able to relate to the physical and mental anguish that comes with chronic pain and disability.

On early Monday morning, I woke instantly to the warm feeling of the sun creeping through the cracks of my curtains. Individual rays of sunlight shone onto my face as I laid with my eyes shut, desperately trying to fall back asleep. My eyes fluttered open as the sound of my ear-piercing alarm emerged from my phone.

It played the same exasperating tune over and over. I was instantly wide-awake.  Waves of nausea and anxiety flooded throughout my entire body as the thought of stepping out of bed entered my mind.

Suddenly, my mum burst into my room and expressed in an agitated tone that I needed to get out of bed quickly or I would be late for a very significant appointment. With a sigh, I immediately sat up. I looked down at my swollen and red fingers and silently agreed.

Getting changed was difficult. I had lost a sense of independence. I could no longer cut my food, effortlessly brush my teeth, do my hair, or even button up my shirt. I felt like a child. Incapable of completing the simplest of tasks without being a burden to others.

I opened the door to my mum’s small grey Mazda and sank into my seat. The feeling of anxiety engulfed me entirely as anxious thoughts circulated around and around my head.  I felt the car come alive as my mum turned the key and released the handbrake.

I sat back ominously and observed the sight of high reaching and towering gum trees as they turned into the vision of busy streets and tall buildings. I watched lorikeets of all colours fly past my window effortlessly. Their array of red, blue, yellow, and green was astounding.

The car slowly came to a stop. We silently sat in front of a small white building. I did not want to get out of the car. I did not want to hear what was to come. But I did not have a choice.

I watched the car’s clock change from ten twenty-nine to ten-thirty. My body felt heavy as I stepped out of the car. It felt like all the weight of the world was crashing down on me. I could not breathe. I could not think. I could not move. Maybe it was because I knew what was coming.

But I had to keep going. I had to reach that door and open it if it meant that I would achieve a better quality of life. I did just that. I opened a heavy white, wooden door and walked inside. The scent of cleaning products and disinfectants instantly hit me in the face like a brick wall.

It made me want to vomit. I sat down in the small waiting room on a rigid plastic chair. I sat uncomfortably until a short, awkward woman called my name and asked my mum and me to follow her to a consultation room.

In that room, the woman poked and prodded at my body. She bent and observed each section of my body as she assessed my swollen and irritated joints. It felt uncomfortable. With a sigh, she sat down on her floral cushioned chair. She looked me in the eyes and explained that my body was at war with itself.

My immune system was fighting a battle where there was no war to win, and the only soldier left defeated was me. She diagnosed me with Juvenile Arthritis. Her words echoed and distorted as I felt as though I was underwater. It felt like the pressure of life itself was enough to make me explode.

She suggested an aggressive treatment plan consisting of steroids, medications used in the treatment of cancer, and biologic medications. I looked over at my mum for comfort. Instead, I was met with her saddened eyes. I watched as tears spilled over and flowed down her face like a river escaping a dam. I felt lost, and worst of all, I felt hopeless.

It was at that moment when I realized how much I took for granted. Before my arthritis, I never realized how precious the simplest of things were.  Being able to write is a privilege. Being able to play sport is a privilege.  It is the small things that matter.