Even though I have a secret love affair with words, I find it difficult to write about my psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in three terms. How do you capture so much of what living with PsA means into only three little tiny words?

Despite this, I was able to narrow it down to loss, emotional, and gifts. Here are the reasons why I chose each of these.

It has taken me a while to come to grips with exactly how much loss I’ve experienced because of my PsA. Truth be told, there are many days when I realize that I still haven’t accepted how much I’ve lost.

I fight against all that PsA has taken from me, but I know in the end, it’s not a battle I’ll win. I’ve lost the person I once was, as well as the person I always wished I could be.

My hands have lost the ability to open even the loosest jars, and my kids miss the endless supply of clean clothes they once had. Fatigue, joint pain, and flares have stolen all of these from me. I’ve lost friendships and even a career I spent most of my life preparing for.

Each loss I’ve experienced because of my PsA has taken a toll on my relationship with loved ones, as well as my emotional health.

When I was first diagnosed with PsA, I was able to gain a clear understanding about what to expect through my research. Swollen joints, pain, and fatigue weren’t new to me so it was actually a relief to have a diagnosis. But what I didn’t expect was the flurry of emotions and mental health issues that accompany this condition.

My rheumatologist didn’t warn me about the strong relationship that exists between PsA and anxiety or depression. I was completely blindsided and ill-equipped to identify the signs that I was struggling. I was drowning under the weight of the emotional side effects of living with PsA.

I now know that it’s so vital for everyone living with PsA to be aware of the signs of emotional overload. Take steps to manage your emotional health just as much as your physical health.

Oddly enough, given all that I’ve lost, explaining my PsA in three words wouldn’t be complete without including all that I’ve gained as well. Living with PsA is all about perspective.

Yes, our bodies hurt. And yes, our lives have drastically changed from all that we were before. We’ve lost so much.

Our mental health has been given a heavy burden to bear. But at the same time, with all pain comes the opportunity to grow. What matters is what we choose to do with that opportunity.

Living with PsA has given me such a deeper understanding of myself and others. It has given me not only the ability to empathize with others on a whole new level, but it has given me such a unique perspective and insight into my own ability to offer others much-needed support.

These things are gifts. Empathy, compassion, and support are gifts that we can bestow on others. I’ve gained a stronger sense of self and purpose.

I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it means to be “strong,” and I’ve proven to myself every single day that I truly am a warrior.

When it comes down to it, life with PsA or any chronic illness comes with a great deal of loss.

There’s pain, physical and emotional, that tells the story of who we are. The gifts that come from that pain tell us who we’re meant to be. We have the opportunity to bless others with our empathy and reap the gifts that come from our pain.

It’s up to us how we choose to use those opportunities.

Leanne Donaldson is a psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis warrior (yep, she totally hit the autoimmune arthritis lotto, folks). With new diagnoses added each year, she finds strength and support from her family and by focusing on the positives. As a homeschooling mom of three, she is always at a loss for energy, but never at a loss for words. You can find her tips for living well with chronic illness over on her blog, Facebook, or Instagram.