Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Live Your Life Outside Your Blog: Guest Angela


Several years back I had the pleasure of meeting Angela from Inflamed: Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis at a blogger summit in New York. Since then, I’ve gotten to know her a little better through our mutual involvement in Joint Decisions. Today, I would like to share her with you while also snatching some of her ideas of how she lives her life outside her blog.  

First off, besides sharing the autoimmune disease of rheumatoid arthritis (Angela was diagnosed at 18), we are also both teaching. Angela is currently substitute teaching Pre-K through 12th grade. She often shares humorous bits of her day with us on Facebook which make me laugh but so thankful I am not in that position anymore. Substitute teaching is hard work! However, her true passions are travel, writing, and photography. The goal is to one day combine those passions into a career. I am pretty sure she will make it. She is amazing at writing and photography and I have always admired the places she has visited.

When I talked to Angela on the phone recently, I wanted to find out how she lives her life with RA outside her blog. My challenge for Arthritis Awareness Month is to find ways to share my disease outside of our community without it taking over my life. Angela shared that this has been something new for her too. Like me, she has “tried to not hide, but to blend in with able people”. She too has struggled to make sure rheumatoid arthritis is not her only identity. This is a tough job when you have had RA your entire adult life. What has changed for Angela in sharing her story is becoming involved in RA communities. Sharing stories with fellow bloggers has allowed her see the importance of sharing beyond the community. She now sees how much people misunderstand about RA and wants to help educate the seriousness of the disease.

Early April 2016, photos of Angela on her bike or places she went on her bike started popping up on Facebook. Angela had committed to 30 Days of Biking, which meant she had taken the pledge to“ride your bike every day in April, any distance, any destination, and share your adventure online.” While I loved all her photos and wished I was also getting off the couch and bundling up for some really cold rides, the day she snapped a photo of her swollen feet next to her bike made a huge impact on me. Here she was sharing her bike adventures with very able bodied people while also showing that she was going through a pretty major flare. Wowzie! I loved and admired Angela more than ever. She didn't have to make a huge statement that she was in pain, she just snapped some pictures of how she integrates her RA and life together. In addition to using the hashtag #30daysofbiking, she included #RA and #ChronicLife. Attaching these two hashtags seemed so out of the closet to me but by adding them to a “normal” activity, she opened up her disease for conversation. She reached the goal I aspire to.What Angela did is magic. She showed to herself and the world that she hasn’t given up on herself but that her reality involves days of pain, swelling, and stiffness. The best part of 30 Days of Biking for Angela is that she feels ”proud of myself for getting on my bike despite the flare.”

*Photos taken by Angela.