Ever since I started this blog, I’ve described myself as an arthritis advocate. This doesn’t mean that I support the disease, and it has many different parts to it.
To advocate means “to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly” according to Dictionary.com. As you can tell from the definition, its meaning changes depending on the use. A general, colloquial understanding is that advocating is speaking or writing publicly about a cause of some kind. It can be to raise awareness, to change something, or some combination of the two.
Advocacy is “the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending” (Dictionary.com). So advocacy is when the actual act of fighting for someone or something, regardless of if that fighting is big or small. If you post on social media about the statistics of breast cancer or if you participated in the ALS ice bucket challenge, that’s advocacy in action.
Advocating for arthritis means that I speak or write in favor of arthritis patients and their rights. I do this on social media, through my blog posts, and by speaking to people in person. I speak about myths and facts of arthritis, the statistics of arthritis, the impacts arthritis has on our society as a whole, and more. I try to calmly correct people when they make incorrect assumptions about my life or say hurtful things like, “She’s just faking it.” And, for the first time ever, today I’m meeting with members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to speak about arthritis and specifically how it affects our military.
I do it because I have arthritis. But I don’t just advocate because I want a better life for myself; I want to take what I have experienced to improve the lives and circumstances for all the people who have arthritis and don’t feel comfortable advocating for themselves or who are unable to do so.
I identify as an advocate because I advocate regularly and advocacy is important to me. Not everyone identifies as an advocate, but they may advocate at one point in time for something. I also say that I’m an advocate because I’m attending this summit and taking this whole advocacy stuff up a notch by meeting with members of Congress. It’s a little more than just tweeting about arthritis, right? It may be a little out of my comfort zone (especially physically since I’m still recovering from my knee surgery), but it’s worth it if I can make a difference for the lives of others with this annoying/awful/aggravating disease.