11 Low-Energy and Low-Key Ways to Raise Awareness for Arthritis
Each year the month of May is known for being National Arthritis Awareness Month. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “arthritis is a disease that impacts more than 50 million Americans, making it the number one cause of disability in the country. That means 1 in every 5 adults, 300,000 children and countless families are affected by some form of arthritis. These numbers are only going to keep growing — unless we take a stand.”
The foundation goes on to say that, “The first steps in conquering arthritis are learning the facts, understanding your condition and knowing that help is by your side.” Help is available in different forms from our medical doctors, family, friends, our community organizations and raising awareness for ourselves and society.
Being chronically ill is in fact very tiresome. Going to a march and holding up signs is a great way to get involved but not everyone has the time, energy or resources to engage in that. This is why I created a low-key, low-energy guide to raise awareness from the comfort of your own home.
1. Tell a friend
Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. If anything, the month of awareness is a time to take stock of how you feel towards you. How are you viewing yourself? How are you treating yourself? Look in the mirror and take a firm stand. You are a warrior.
When I was first diagnosed I did the exact opposite of what I am writing now. I didn’t tell anyone and I kept it to myself. For me at the time that is what I felt comfortable doing. Eventually I opened up and told someone outside of my immediate family. Once I did I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. You don’t have to go screaming it off the rooftops, but choosing a close confidant(s) can help your emotional and mental well-being.
2. Own your arthritis. Be Firm.
Own it. The only way people will start understanding is if we make the aware in awareness stand out. When people think of arthritis, they usually automatically visualize older people and remember a time when their own joints were “achy and stiff.” If I got nervous around people I didn’t know – I just mumble I have “RA” (rheumatoid arthritis). People would look at me and say, “What is RA?” People don’t know what these acronyms stand for. Sometimes I would say my health issues, chronic illness, health problems, my food allergies, etc.
I realized being vague was only prolonging a conversation I didn’t want to go further into at the time. So when you’re out in a social setting simply saying, “I have rheumatoid arthritis,” “I have a gluten allergy,” “I can’t eat this,” makes for not only a confident stance, but people start understanding when you are clear. This is also partly societies fault for the image that often is associated with the word arthritis. Some people aren’t aware that there’s more than 100 different versions of arthritis, and that’s why it’s up to us who live with these different forms to make them known. When we start to become more confident only then can we ease our anxiety around sharing what our condition is with new people we meet.
3. Share as much as you want.
Another side of this coin is share what you want. Share as much as you want. If you don’t feel like telling certain acquaintances, coworkers, friends or family members personal information, you do not have to. We can often feel pressure to overshare, but your personal life is personal for a reason. We have the power to make it public when and if we decide to.
4. Stop apologizing.
I would always find myself saying “sorry” even before I was diagnosed. I was what I like to call serial over-apologizer.
Why are we sorry for things that are out of our control or that do not need an apology for? Sometimes illness can cause us to feel bad if we cancel plans or when friends and family become frustrated and impatient with us. We are then quick to apologize for the way they feel, but it should be the opposite. If I cancel plans I have learned to say, “Sorry, I can’t make it. Thank you for understanding and being patient.” Instead of going into a whole explanation and getting frustrated with myself, we need to teach people how to be accommodating because sometimes they don’t know how to or what to say.
5. Flaunt your arthritis gear and aids.
Wear that kick-ass T-shirt, drink from that arthritis awareness water bottle, wear that sweatshirt with pride. If anything, you will get people asking you where you got it! Also, do you use a disability card because of your arthritis? I have been using one because of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since around the time I was diagnosed. I’ve had people give me weird stares, have had the cops called on me for someone complaining that I “improperly using it.” (Which was not the case.)
Moral of the story: Do not care what people think. If you need to use a placard, hand splint, brace, cane or any other assistive device, use it proudly. If it helps you in the short or long-term, that’s all that matters.
6. Take your medications and supplements as you normally would.
Don’t hide what you wouldn’t otherwise. If you’re out and need to take something, by all means do so. Don’t be embarrassed. I use to take my supplements quick if I was out eating at a restaurant, before anyone would see me. Now I just take what I need to take without feeling worried what people may think.
7. Post a picture and share on social media.
You can reach a lot of people through posting an arthritis awareness picture. Organizations such as, Cure Arthritis National Research Foundation and The Arthritis Foundation, provide banners and photos each May specifically for social media usage. Hashtags were created for a reason. Use them and get the word out there. The hashtags #arthritis, #awareness, and #rheumatoidarthritis have connected me with a ton of different people in the community that I wouldn’t have come into contact otherwise.
8. Give and donate.
The term, “It’s in giving that we receive” is true. Share donation links with others to give at least one dollar. Anything towards finding better treatments and eventually a cure can count. Next time you see someone, show them what to do, because I have had people tell me that they don’t know how to go about donating online. It can be confusing to people so offer some help.
Here are two donation pages:
9. Google it. Google is your friend.
Research and post your story on message boards. Connect with others and you will find that many people share a similar story as yours. Also, back up what others may say who don’t have your condition with facts. If they say, “Oh I heard this can help, you should try it,” but you know it would actually harm you – then speak up to inform and educate them with researched based information. People mean well, but they just don’t know!
10. Share good sources with others.
When I was first diagnosed and throughout the years after that, I have researched several different websites, bloggers and organizations for information in order to help myself and also share with those around me. Here is my go-to list of legit sources that offer each their unique perspective, guidance and information.
11. Self-love is the best love.
As I saw my body physically change from rheumatoid arthritis, I entered into the realm of sadness, grief and depression. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror and my confidence took a nosedive. When we learn to love ourselves flaws and all, we can bring in positive people who support us. Vibrating at a high frequency attracts what we most need in our lives. When we see ourselves in a bad light, we will attract those who don’t appreciate us. It’s in finding your self-worth and love for your body no matter what, that only then you can grow out of the muddy waters into the beautiful lotus flower that you are. This is a month to really tune into our worth and self-love and let go of any self-pity, self-sabotage, low-self-esteem and lack of confidence.
My top picks for non-profits, organizations, bloggers and information:
Follow this journey on Rising Above Rheumatoid Arthritis.