After my daughter was born, I started to feel pain in my joints and develop scaly patches on my feet and hands. I struggled for a long time to find out why I was so sick, and finally I found out I had psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, two related autoimmune conditions that cause scaly patches on skin and joint pain. But even though I was relieved to know what was wrong, I got to a very low place after my diagnosis. We tried different medications, but nothing clicked right away. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t hold my daughter, couldn’t live my life. My husband was my saving grace. When I was nauseous from the meds, but couldn’t walk to the bathroom to vomit, he’d pick me up and carry me there. One night, I was in a lot of pain and feeling especially depressed about my situation. I told my husband I didn’t want to try anymore; I didn’t want to live, and if I did live, I’d rather just not have legs at all. He looked at me and said, “You’re not going to let this illness rule you. You’re not going to let this illness take over and ruin your life. When you get backed into a corner, what do you do? Do you give up? No. You stand and fight and take control. You do something that can make a difference with your disease.” That night changed my life. I finally accepted what had happened. I say now that I never knew my strength until I accepted my weaknesses. I had to accept that some days are going to be worse than others. I had to accept that I can’t do all the things I used to do. I had to accept that things were going to be different. I decided that I wanted to do for others what my husband had done for me. I reached out to volunteer with the National Psoriasis Foundation and became an advocate for others with my disease. It took a long time to find the right medication, but volunteering helped me feel like I had a purpose during those tough times. And once I did find a treatment that worked, I was proud to be an example for others and show them they could get better. On top of that, I started a support group in my small town for people with chronic conditions, not just psoriatic arthritis. At the first meeting, about 15 people showed up and every single person had a different diagnosis. But they had never had the chance to share with people who knew what they were going through. It was such an emotional experience, for all of us. For me, this group has been incredibly rewarding—hearing people thank me for helping them is a feeling I can’t even describe. Since then, my passion in life has been focused on helping other people with chronic diseases like mine accept themselves. That pushes me forward—showing others that there are things they can do to make the most of their lives, even when they feel like their lives are over. I tell them to be confident and proud of getting through the hard times. And the most important thing I tell them is to share their stories. When I meet someone new who is struggling, I say, “you are the voice of not only your disease, but also of everyone who lives with a chronic disease. Your voice is bigger than you could ever imagine.” I feel like I got this disease for a reason: to help those people know that they are not alone and there is hope. Yes, there will be very bad days when they don’t want to get up in the morning. They’ll ask, “why is this happening to me?” But I want to be the one to remind them that some days are better than others, and they have to stay positive. Most importantly, they’ve got to share their stories and help others like them. We have an invisible illness. Not everyone with a disease looks sick. That’s why we need to be vocal and advocate for ourselves, so people learn about these conditions, and so people with these conditions don’t feel so alone. Everything I’ve been through on this journey has fueled my desire to help others know they’re not alone. Helping others helps me, too. Summer Scirocco lives in a small town in Louisiana with her husband, where she’s a community ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation and the National Psoriasis Foundation. She’s also an active volunteer with the U.S. Pain Foundation and other organizations across the country.