Edinburgh teen shares experience of living with ‘agonising pain’ of hypermobility
Kind hearted schoolgirl hopes her story can help other people feel less alone
An Edinburgh teenager who lived with horrendous pain for years before being diagnosed with hypermobility has launched an online support network for young people with hidden illnesses.
Caitlin Kiddie was an active child who loved dancing, netball and gymnastics but after a string of ‘strange’ injuries including repeatedly spraining her ankle and “agonising” back pain she had to stop the sports she loved at aged 11.
Now 17-years-old Cailtin remembers feeling ‘frustrated’ and ‘scared’ during the years that no doctor could tell her what was wrong.
The Royal High School pupil recalls one particularly low moment in 2019 when a doctor at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital told her the pain she felt was just her teenage hormones.
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She said: “The doctor sat us down and told me that I was perfectly fine, there was nothing wrong with me and I was just an overly emotional teenage girl.
“When he tried to refer me to a child psychologist I burst into tears because I was so frustrated and my parents got angry and we left pretty quickly, still with no answers.”
Caitlin added that her parents, Margaret and Paul Kiddie, were her “biggest supports” through the whole ordeal.
She said: “My mum and dad helped me so much when nobody else believed me and kept trying to understand what I was going through.”
Still unable to find the root cause of her pain Caitlin could not go out to concerts and “hang out” with her friends and became isolated at home in Backhall.
Determined to find a solution the resilient schoolgirl kept fighting for answers and in 2019 she was finally diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome.
Soon after this diagnosis, Cailtin found a personal trainer Anna-Maria McConaughey who had the same condition and was able to provide her a wealth of knowledge about coping with hypermobility.
Caitlin said: “It was amazing being able to speak to someone else who had the same condition. It was the first time someone had understood what I was trying to say.”
The pair work together each week and slowly Caitlin is starting to gain the coping skills needed to manage her condition.
The friendship and support she received from Anna-Maria is the core reason behind the schoolgirl’s new website called Our Strength which provides a platform for people with invisible illnesses to feel seen.
Caitlin said she knows how much speaking to the personal trainer helped her come to terms with her condition and how she wants to provide the same relief for others living with hidden illnesses.
The kind hearted teenager said: “Having an invisible condition like hypermobility is one of the loneliest things you can go through. Nobody knows what you are going through until you explain it and nobody has to know you are struggling.
“But being able to speak to someone who truly understands what you are going through, and are going through the same, can make all the difference.”
Cailtin went on to say that the experience of young people is particularly hard and there is “no real support out there for us”.
The website features a collection of short essays penned by Caitlin which young people can read and hear from people with lived experience who truly understand what they are going through.
Since launching the website has attracted visitors from all over the world, with readers logging in from as far away as Australia and as close as Edinburgh.
Discussing the next steps for the website, Caitlin said: “I just want to reach more people who have invisible illnesses so the website can be a special place for them too.”
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