As a kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 70's, life was pretty good. I had a close knit family and was taught to believe in myself and that I could do anything if I put my heart into it. I was a budding artist from practically the day I was born and when the time came to make a decision on my career path, I chose to go to U.C. Davis to get my degree in art and design.
I loved college. But not long into my sophomore year, everything changed when my health suddenly took a turn for the worse and I ended up fighting a long, hard battle with fibromyalgia and Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). It was a difficult and painful time in my life and I was forced to leave the art classes I loved so much and fight to stay in college, despite my health issues.
By the time I graduated, my marriage to my high school sweetheart ended, my father had passed away at the age of 42 and I was on my own, still fighting the illnesses attacking my body. I needed a radical change and decided to pack up everything I owned, including my three cats, and move to Georgia, a place I had fallen in love with years before.
I needed to find a career that allowed me to work from home as my energy levels were still very low. So, I went back to my first love and decided to open my own graphic design business. Over the years I regained some of my health and my business was highly successful. But after the dot.com crash and the economy change, I found it necessary to move to the corporate world of marketing.
In 2005, I started running low grade fevers, feeling generally unwell and noticed that my hands became inflamed, stiff and painful for days at a time. About a year later I woke up with a high fever and every one of my joints was stiff and swollen, almost completely immoveable. It was like being frozen in a suit of armor. I knew immediately my autoimmune problems were back and I was scared. That was the day Rheumatoid Arthritis, or as I call it "The Beast", charged into my life and changed it forever.
Although medications quelled "The Beast" and brought me the much needed relief I was looking for, I found that each year I lost more of my abilities and my strength. I was able to continue with my career but life was not easy.
Shortly thereafter I met Dave, the love of my life. We had a whirlwind romance and married just a little more than a year from our first date. We now live in a house filled with love, as well as two dogs and thirteen cats, all coming from the rescue work we do. My husband is my rock and my teddy bear. He is my best friend as well as my husband and many times, my caretaker too.
In April 2011, "The Beast" came roaring back into my life, this time bringing me to my knees. My medications had stopped working and I found myself in a flurry of constant flares. In November, I hit bottom both mentally and physically. RA was stripping me of everything I was, and had been, and there seemed to be no hope of it stopping anytime soon. I spun downwards into a deep depression and was close to giving up for the first time in my life.
But as I lay in bed sobbing, my husband came to my rescue, once again. I said, "There's nothing left of me! And there isn't any manual on how to put your life back together when you've fallen apart! What am I supposed to do?" His reply was simple, "Take it one step at a time. As you take those steps, write about it! Help others by sharing YOUR story, so that they don't have to feel alone either." I knew he was right. I remembered my favorite quote that I had framed on my wall: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." The very next day my blog, "Dancing in the Rain", was created.
I still continue to fight uncontrolled RA and I share my journey daily with others through my blog and social media, looking for new ways to create awareness about RA every day. "The Beast" and I still quarrel but I have learned that life is what you make of it and I am working on creating a new life for myself...one filled with love, joy, and purpose.
RA can take many things away from us, but it can NEVER take away our voice! My voice is why I'm here today sharing my story with you, because someone said, "We hear you and we like what you have to say." So now I'm not just sharing my story and my knowledge with friends and family, I'm also here sharing it with everyone on RAHealthCentral. Thank you for having me!
I'm looking forward to talking and meeting you all in the days and months to come.
You can read more from Carrie Beth Brown on her blog, Dancing in the Rain.