The feeling of being a "problem child" has been an unwelcome yet familiar one for me ever since my diagnosis. Even within the rheumatology world, I was well aware from a young age that I was a complex case disliked by my doctors. No one likes to feel like they can't help someone, or like they are not good enough at their job, and I suspect that sometimes the mysteriousness of my case served as a let-down to the savior complex present within many medical professionals. Even when I was surrounded by people experiencing my same illness, I was still the "problem child." Of course, I had no idea what to do about this. I couldn't just make my body simpler or provide any answers for them. It became a strange learning experience in which I began to accept that I am often the odd one out and make light of it through humor.
It is true that I sometimes need more from people than my peers do. It is true that feeling like a "problem child" places a terrible burden on me that I sometimes struggle to carry. But it is also true that despite these things, there are people that I love and people that love me. There are things we cannot change about ourselves, no matter how hard we try or how much water we drink from a Roman bath. Nine times out of ten, we become closer to rather than further from the people who offer their help to us. The ten percent of the time in which receiving help sort of backfires and we are treated differently by the person who helped us is always the first to come to mind, but it is not the norm and we cannot allow ourselves to be jaded by people who are unable to see past arthritis or treat us like we are anything more than a walking illness. It hurts tremendously, but it is no reason to forego assistance when we need it the most
Last summer, when I experienced a painful day of arthritis fury at Governor's School, one of my teachers sat with me for a bit in preparation for a long journey down the stairs in a building with no elevator. I was upset and frustrated about the whole situation, and I repeatedly assured him that I would be fine going down on my own, because the only feeling worse than being held back is holding other people back. He was quiet for a minute, and then responded by saying, "A world where people don't help other people, where that's a burden to them... That's not a world I want to live in." That has stuck with me a lot. I don't want to live in that world either, and part of creating an ideal world where help is freely given is having the grace to say, "Yes, I'm sort of a problem child, yes, I need help right now, thank you for helping me."
Any situation that forces or allows us to become closer to people and to expand our vision of what humanity can be is an opportunity rather than a curse. Maybe being a "problem child" isn't the worst thing to be.