I fight very hard to spread awareness and educate those who are ignorant to what autoimmune arthritis is. When someone sees me park in a disabled parking spot and then tells me I can't park there because it is for someone who has a disability, I get very angry! I first think of it as a teachable moment. I tell the person that I have autoimmune arthritis. Of course, people never totally hear you! They many times will automatically come back with some kind of story about their grandmother having arthritis in her knee or something similar. Then they will end up somehow coming back to you, saying, "but you're too young..." Again, I will continue with the education. I will explain that autoimmune arthritis is not the same as your grandmother's arthritis. Then I will explain that even children can get autoimmune arthritis. Although, I am upset and mad that people don't know this, I try to use this as an opportunity to educate them and make them aware.
Because of many of my doctors' mentality of "but you're too young..." it took until I was 27 to finally have a name for my autoimmune arthritis disease. I was ignored, treated like a hypochondriac, and basically pushed away becaused of that mentality and by health professionals too! It isn't just uneducated, ignorant people who question whether or not I am too young to get arthritis. Doctors have also fallen into the category of people who need to be made aware of what autoimmune arthritis actually is and who it affects. It can be exhausting, overwhelming, and frustrating dealing with health care professionals who should know better, who should be keeping up with the current health diagnoses to know that even children get arthritis. It isn't just an old person's disease!
I look at it also from the angle that when I was very young, still a child, and I was trying to find out what was wrong with me, not one doctor tested me or looked into autoimmune arthritis diseases. When I was a child, there weren't many doctors that specialized in that area, especially for children, and very few doctors looked into a child having a type of arthritis because of the mentality of "but you're too young..." Although this has changed somewhat, and now there are pediatric rheumatologists to help diagnose young children earlier and without hitting a brick wall of "but you're too young." Of course, even though there are now pediatric rheumatologists, there are very few and not nearly enough to offer to those suffering from symptoms of autoimmune arthritis. If there were more pediatric rheumatologists, more children would be diagnosed sooner and more doctors would understand that with autoimmune arthritis there is no "too soon."
I know that when someone says to me or someone I know "but you're too young," that I get angry. I try to use that emotion toward gathering the information to teach those that are uneducated. There is no age on autoimmune arthritis disease. Everyone is different, and everyone is affected in different ways as well.