Hi. My name's Paul.
I've had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 20,
so that's over half my life I've been living with this condition.
What I would advise somebody to do
is not to let it control your life.
Find ways that you can distract yourself from the pain,
find ways that you can get on top of the condition and manage it
and keep doing all the things you enjoy doing.
Don't let it interfere with what you enjoy.
I first found out that I had arthritis when I was 20,
but I'd been feeling a little bit strange for about a year before then.
Throughout my teens I'd been a really fast runner.
Then by about the age of 19,
I really felt like I was stiffening up.
I just seemed to move at the pace of a distracted goat.
I was really kind of bemused by it, and confused,
but, at the same time, I didn't really know what was going on.
I was at drama school at the time, I'd just finished a play
and I just collapsed into bed for days afterwards
and I was absolutely exhausted.
But then suddenly I got this amazing swelling,
amazing amount of inflammation on my knees.
The doctor was bamboozled by it and didn't know what was going on.
It went away for a little while
but then it returned with a vengeance a couple of months later
and then I was referred to a rheumatologist,
who diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis,
which was, at that age, something I'd never heard of
and didn't really know why it was happening to me.
Good afternoon. Arthritis Care Helpline.
Initially when I was diagnosed,
I was just given a combination
of anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers,
and I took these for a few years
until I just decided one day I'd see how I got on without them,
and I didn't notice very much of a difference, really.
People who are diagnosed now
would be offered different kinds of medication,
what's called disease modifying treatment.
But that didn't seem to be around at the time that I was diagnosed.
When I knew what I had, I think I was a bit passive about it.
I just thought, "Oh, this is fate, the cards have dealt
and just let it run its course."
But after a while, it became really important to me
to start challenging it, to find ways to take control of my life again.
I started exercising a lot more, just gentle exercises,
and a lot of swimming, doing all the things I was into as a young person.
Even on days when I could hardly walk,
I still would go dancing with my mates.
That was the key, dealing with the condition.
I just learnt to get on with it.
Obviously there were people in the clubs
who would look at me and think, "Who is that fellow?"
"Why is he dancing like my dad?"
After a while, you just forget about that,
forget entirely about what other people's preconceptions are
and just get on with it, do what makes you happy.
It's very easy just to dwell on the pain and the misfortune
and the whole "Why me?" thing.
In the end, that's really futile
because you expend a lot of energy stressing out,
so what's important is to focus on all the things that you enjoy,
and the richer your experience in life,
the more that tends to distract from the pain.