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To see the accompanying nail art click here.

Today I rock-climbed. No, let me re-phrase that. Today I rock-climbed well.

I climbed three 5.10s. Specifically, a 5.10a, a 5.10b, and a 5.10c. I climbed all three climbs from top to bottom without falling. I “sent” the climbs.

I knew sending the climbs was not important. I was just happy to be on the wall. I was not going to lie: I felt pleased. I was proud of myself. I had the strength, agility, and mobility to climb quickly and efficiently.

I climbed on and off for the last couple of weeks. There was a length of time when I could not climb at all because of the flare.

Before, every time I had a flare I lost my strength. I had to work my way back up the difficulty level of climbs. I was ecstatic when I realized I had not lost all my strength. Okay, so my fingers cramped up more than usual and I forced myself to stretch farther with my legs and shove my arms above my head but I was able to do it.

And sure, I am paying for it now. I am unable to climb the stairs properly, my elbows and shoulders lock, and my fingers cramp as I type. It is so worth it though.

When I was a junior in high school, I suffered through a bad bout of depression. I barely scraped by that year academically and emotionally.

Looking back, that year was a blur but there was one thing I will never forget.

My climbing coach pulled me aside one day and said to me, “Monica, I don’t think I have seen you smile at all this year. I miss your smile, it brightens my day. I think it brightens most people’s day.”

Today, for the first time in weeks, I genuinely smiled and laughed.

I know the difference between a forced and real smile. When I smile, for real, I feel it in my entire face. My cheeks get red, my eyes crinkle and light up. I show my teeth. My laugh lines go deep. I feel happy.

When I force that same smile it feels fake. People see right through me. They know it is a show.

I hope that because of this one smile everything will look up. This one smile is the crack I needed to find in the tunnel wall. The wall is weak around the crack.

I think I can push out now.

Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.