Hi, I am Sukhjeen Kaur, I’m 21 and I have a story to share.
My story started in August 2018. I started having pain in my right wrist and thought nothing of it. Put on a wrist splint as it progressed and carried on like nothing happened. September 2018 the pain moved to my hands, both of them losing mobility. So many tears and GP appointments, hearing “you’re too young for arthritis” constantly. I remember one GP appointment consisted of showing my curled and stiff hands to the GP, saying “My hands can’t move anymore” and crying. I finally got my referral to rheumatology after that. I was lucky to get an urgent referral and seen within 3 weeks. I was finally diagnosed with seronegative inflammatory arthritis, October 2018. 4 days before my 20th birthday.
All of this happened during my first year at university. I asked the university if I could go part-time, online, or defer the year. I was told by the ‘LOVELY’ lady that she had arthritis in her 3 fingers and is completely fine; she couldn’t understand why I wanted to pause my time at university. I was shocked. I was made to feel really small.
Instead of deferring, I carried on with the year and lost the university experience and my social life. I was alone and constantly in pain, with no steroids or painkillers helping me. But this just gave me the motivation to start my Instagram page @chronicallybrown.
The page was initially created to share my experiences with arthritis and for me to meet others dealing with the same condition. However, as time went on I was getting more and more messages of people telling me how being part of the South Asian community with having an invisible disability meant they were facing constant stigmas.
Some of the ignorance was led by their families believing there was nothing wrong with them. This told me that disabilities in the South Asian community were treated the same way as mental health issues. Their attitude was “If I can’t see it, it isn’t a problem”.
I can’t fix this problem, but I want to help this problem. I am encouraging any South Asian with chronic illnesses and mental illnesses to speak up and share your story on my page. I have seen the positive impact sharing these stories have on others in the same situations. YOU can help.
If you would like to see or take part in any of the projects Sukhjeen does as a chronic illness advocate then be sure to give her a follow on Instagram at @chronicallybrown