Charlotte’s Story

Forty-year-old Charlotte Walker, a Member of Arthritis Action, opens up about her arthritis on the 22nd World Arthritis Day, on 12th October 2017. She was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at the age of 34, and was subsequently diagnosed with fibromyalgia and joint hypermobility.

Charlotte Walker, says:

“I’m not sure what caused my arthritis but I know that genetically, arthritis runs in my family, so does fibromyalgia. When I was first diagnosed, it was strangely a relief because I had a name for my condition, so I could go away and research it. However, reading material can be quite depressing because arthritis is a long-term condition that has no cure.

When the pain and fatigue associated with arthritis was at its height, it was very depressing and very hard to feel like you will have to live with the condition long-term without getting help. When I was first diagnosed by a rheumatologist, I was given medication which I stopped taking because I discovered that I was allergic to it. So I tried to look for alternative routes such as getting a massage, Reiki treatments, Lymphatic Drainage, Zero Balancing and Acupuncture, and I also tried alternative medication like magnesium to help with the condition. All these alternative routes are what I call ‘my maintenance’ of my condition.

On bad pain days, I remember thinking I wish I was dead because the pain was that bad. I suffered with pain in my right shoulder, which was like a hot spot for me. The way I would describe it is like having my arm sawn off with a blunted saw, the pain was that severe. The fatigue is actually missed quite a lot because a lot of people talk about pain which you can somewhat deal with using pain medication. But I don’t think you can deal with the fatigue, the fatigue is like literally being run over by a bus or a truck and then being asked to get up again, so it’s tough.

When my pain was that bit worse I was actually working full-time, and that was hard because you felt like you had to go to work and you can’t take time off so it was the case of taking painkillers to be able to go to work, and hobbies and activities after work just didn’t happen. The positive thing about that time was that I still had to take the dog out for a walk, so that was good because it gets you out in the fresh air and meeting people. Relationships you have with animals can also really help and I am lucky I had my dog and cat in those hard times. They are non-judgmental and give unconditional love which is what you need when you are at your lowest point.

I joined Arthritis Action in 2014, I like that they are all about empowerment. They push people to do their self-care and management, so it is nice to be involved with an organisation which promotes that. Arthritis Action has supported me in terms of positively advocating self-management. Their website is very clear, concise, and easy to use, and contains lots of information because education is key. There are parts on exercise and parts on emotional wellbeing, self-care and diet.  Arthritis Action has changed my life because there is also the support side of it; they offer me the opportunity to meet others, and it’s really nice to have the outlet to talk to like-minded people, joining Groups or picking up the phone and talking to the team who can point you in the right direction.

My mental health previously wasn’t great especially when the pain was bad. You sort of grieve the person that you lost, because you realise that you can’t do the things that you used to be able to do. Now I can do the things that I used to do and have come out of the other end, and that is from the support of Arthritis Action.

I’ve been blessed with an understanding and supportive GP and NHS Occupational Therapist. I took part in NHS’s ‘Exercise on Prescription’ and ‘Steps to Wellbeing’ mental health local 7-week programmes which led me to be able to work with a Personal Trainer for ‘High Risk Exercise’ patients such as people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS and Parkinson’s.

As we mark World Arthritis Day, I urge policymakers in the UK to prioritise arthritis and help charities like Arthritis Action to raise awareness of the issue to help them make a real difference to the lives of the millions of people living with this debilitating condition.”