Jack's Story - Arthritis Action

Jack’s Story


I first developed signs of psoriatic arthritis when I was 34. I wasn’t living a very healthy lifestyle at the time – I was working long, stressful hours in the heart of London, and my body was always running on adrenaline and stress. I thought that was the normal thing for someone in their thirties in London, and I didn’t appreciate the damage this was doing to my body.

Things really kicked off one week in 2017. In the space of one week, I lost my job after the crowdfunding business I had created folded, and I split up with my girlfriend and stopped living with her. I didn’t see either of these things coming at all, and they really had a bad effect on my mental health and stress levels, which were already sky high. I already had psoriasis, but within six months it began to get worse across my entire body, even in my private areas, and my hair started falling out in clumps.

The severity of my symptoms meant that I was seen quickly by healthcare professionals. At first, I started seeing a nurse who treated me for eczema for 6 months. However, we quickly realised that this treatment was only making the symptoms worse, and that eczema wasn’t the cause of my issues. The nurse referred me onto a dermatologist. He looked at my fingernails which had developed ridges – the first sign of psoriatic arthritis – and quickly diagnosed me with psoriasis, not eczema, and the beginnings of psoriatic arthritis.


Finding the Right Support

It initially felt like a godsend to get a diagnosis, because I could get onto medical treatment that would actually help me and my symptoms would be taken seriously. For the next eight months, we began to treat my skin with steroids. Unfortunately, my arthritis continued to progress very quickly – I soon developed swelling in my toes and fingers, and my fingernails started falling out. At my worst, I looked like a mangy dog. I was quickly put onto immunosuppressants.

I tried a few different drugs before being referred to a specialist dermatologist and being moved onto methotrexate. It took some time for me to adjust to the drug, both mentally and physically – in the beginning it made me feel quite nauseous. However, I’ve since learnt that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way when you’re put on new medication. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, but over time it only gets easier as your body gets used to it and you learn more. Nowadays I’ve found that if I take my medication before going to bed then I don’t feel as ill when I wake up.

A few years after my diagnosis, I began taking methotrexate as an injection. This really helped to bring my psoriasis under control, however my arthritis had got worse and spread to my feet, knees, hands, and elbows.

At this point, the pain of the arthritis was dictating my life. My busy lifestyle still caused me a lot of stress, plus the pain I was feeling made it a lot harder to get a good night’s sleep. I felt like it began to affect what I could and couldn’t do. I had launched another startup business, but my arthritis made me feel really self-conscious and anxious. If I was in a business meeting and leant forward to show something on my phone, I felt as though they would notice my broken fingernails and flaking scalp. This would then lead to more stress, which just made things worse, and the vicious cycle would begin again!

After three years of living with the condition, my healthcare professional suggested that I try taking biologics. Since being on my current tablets, my condition has really stabilized. Things haven’t got back to how they were before, but the fact that it’s not getting any worse for the first time in years is a huge relief.

Today, I’m feeling better in myself. I’m still in pain and discomfort, but I’ve learnt to accept it. At the start of this week I had a bad flare up, the worst in quite some time. I’d almost forgotten how bad it can be on those bad days. But at this point, I knew it would pass. It’s continuously up and down – the next day, I was OK!


Taking Time to Accept

One of the hardest things to adjust to is that for the first few months, you’re continuously grieving for how you used to be. Each week or month, it feels like you discover something else that you can’t do any more. You’re constantly reminded that your life is different now.

Surprisingly, the lockdown period was quite positive for me. I had been so stressed with work before, but the lockdown forced me to slow down a lot. It gave me the space to actually think about myself and my condition. I was classed as clinically vulnerable due to my immunosuppressants, so I was literally forced to stay indoors and have some time to myself. It made me realise the damage I was causing myself by living such a high-octane lifestyle.

I used the extra time to go online and research a little more about my condition, which is when I discovered charities like Arthritis Action. Arthritis can be a really lonely condition – I was only 35 when I was first diagnosed, still very young in my own eyes, and I didn’t have a community or anyone else to speak to about how I was feeling.

It was a real game changer to find a supportive community of people who understood what it was like to live with arthritis. I started talking to others, and learnt so many great tips about how they managed their condition. It helped me feel less alone. Even in the heart of the lockdown when I couldn’t leave the house, I was meeting new people and finding ways to reduce my symptoms. I also started joining online Tai Chi classes, which were great for keeping me active, reducing my arthritis pain, and meeting new people.

I’d really recommend reaching out to charities like Arthritis Action. Having someone to chat with on those bad days can mean so much, and if that person has psoriatic arthritis like me then they really understand and empathise. It’s honestly life-changing to have a like-minded shoulder to lean on who understands what I’m going through.


What I’ve Learnt

There’s no denying that the first few years of living with a chronic condition like arthritis can be hard. It’ll feel so unfair that it’s happened to you. But after you’ve given yourself time to stabilise and take in what’s happened, you’ll be able to accept it. Only then can you start to move on. It’s not an overnight thing – you need to go through that grieving process to fully accept it and recover. Arthritis will take a lot from you, but it can’t take everything. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, and you’ll get through this.

You have to learn to appreciate your condition. There is currently no cure for arthritis, so you just have to learn to live with it. I had to really work to realise this – I ended up learning holistic meditation and healing, which helped me to slow down and evaluate how I was living. That has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’m now a Reiki therapist, trying to help others. It’s a far cry from the sales roles I held in the past!