When Society Wants to Silence You

 

Guest Zine by Hannah Higgins

Sharing my experience of living with RA was extremely empowering for me.  I wanted to get involved with IDP because I wanted other people like me, especially people my age, to be able to relate with others undergoing the similar journey of battling an autoimmune disease.  I had no idea that so many people would watch my video and reach out to me with solidarity, love, insight, and the ability to relate and support me.

Speaking Out

Telling my story though a social media outlet has definitely improved my outlook of living with rheumatoid arthritis. I constantly used to shame myself for the burdens I face, but now I am more accepting of life with the disease, understanding that I can use my RA as strength while sharing my experience to encourage others who are in pain. After making the video and displaying it with over 90,000 people on the IDP’s Facebook page, I realized that social media is extremely beneficial for people living with an invisible illness/ disability.  It allows us to reach out to the mass amounts of people living with the same condition and be able to communicate and support each other.  It also makes you realize how many people not only in the U.S. but the world live with the same condition as you.  We would not know that without social media.  IDP is an outlet that advocates to connect and spread awareness of that phenomenon   

Society views people with invisible disabilities as inconvenient and a burden.

As a result, people have mastered the ability to mask their illness in order to fit in with society including being able to work full-time and maintain a social life. Although this may seem positive, it is unrealistic to live up to such expectations. We as humans should not have to mask our illness due to stigma that stems from societal views, or society's way of downplaying such illnesses.  I believe that the first step towards advocating for ourselves is sharing our voice and story.  Living in this era, we have the ability to reach out to thousands and even millions across the world though social media.  It is important that we take advantage of this and use it as platform to create the change we want to see. It also reduces stigma associated with disabilities and normalizes our experiences.  

As of right now I live in Denver, Co. and could not be feeling better.  I have been experiencing very little pain and get to be active thanks to my biologic. Currently I am finishing up my master’s degree in social work and graduate in May.  I plan to continue being a voice for the arthritis community and doing what ever I can to be a support network for those hurting both mentally and physically from the illness.

 
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