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I was a very happy baby. I smiled. All. The. Time. I was just a smiley kid. My dad told me my personality changed after my mother died which makes a lot of sense. My most present parent was gone. It was a change. I changed.

I was always a stable, calm kid and as I grew up I became more and more taciturn. I was social and loud, probably overcompensating for my true introverted nature. I compartmentalized everything and let no one in. My junior year of high school, my coach told me I stopped smiling, that I was a completely different person. Junior year was tough. I kept late nights and early mornings with restless sleep in between. I was on the go from school, to climbing to after-school activities with little to no breaks. What I didn’t realize, I was not faking holding it all together as well as I thought.

Fast forward to my Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. I used to be very open about my condition but I realized quickly nobody cared. People didn’t understand invisible illnesses so to them I was just faking symptoms. I turned more and more inward and completely unresponsive.

I don’t smile anymore. I just..don’t. I don’t even remember the last time I truly genuinely laughed. Don’t mistake this for not caring. I care very deeply for my friends (who care about me in return) but I just don’t smile. I have always been a no-nonsense, straight-shooter so my true friends already know I am not most emotionally responsive person. They accept me as I am and do not force the “smile” on me.

 

Okay, so I do smile. Obviously, I don’t go out with permanent b*tch face tattooed across my head. I smile because it is socially expected of me. I am not saying it’s not genuine. I love when people talk to me, tell me about their day, when my students are excited to see me, when they get do their lessons properly. I just…I don’t know. I have become so compartmentalized, so introverted to the point that just seeing people gives me anxiety that maybe, while it’s a genuine emotion, it’s a fake smile. This sounds totally odd written out, but makes perfect sense in my head.

 

Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.

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