If you live with arthritis, you can probably attest that it’s quite a journey. I realized rather quickly when I made my own social media accounts and started raising arthritis awareness again- after a seven-year hiatus- how similar people’s stories were to mine. Although, there were a lot of differences as well. It was within that space of not being able to relate to someone or not being knowledgeable about what was being shared- that I either learned something valuable for my own healing or had new information at my fingertips for future use if I needed it.
When I started sharing this book project some people told me they aren’t sure they have an interesting enough story to share. But I’m here to tell you that after eighteen years of living with rheumatoid arthritis, your story is never ‘too boring’ or not valuable enough. Someone out there will find what you have to say helpful, and even if that is one person- so what? Oftentimes, it’s not about helping the masses all at once. We may want to, but helping a few people and allowing that to create a domino effect can yield long-lasting benefits that can create consistent change.
A little bit about the book project and what inspired me
In 2017, Effie Koliopoulos started to feature interviews of people in the arthritis community on her blog, Rising Above rheumatoid arthritis. From there, it evolved into a social media arthritis challenge with giveaways during Arthritis Awareness Month in May, where people were invited to share a photo with the hashtag #keepingitrealwith (inserting the form of arthritis they are living with). One year later, the Instagram account @KeepingItRealWithArthritis was created to build a hub where people could connect, read stories, and share their own.
One common thread through most, if not all the stories, was the fact that arthritis doesn’t only impact someone on a physical level. Arthritis can have far-reaching effects in every area of a person’s life. Another common thread was authenticity. People didn’t shy away from sharing all the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between.
This all sums up the meaning behind ‘keeping it real with arthritis.’
When Effie was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her teens, 17 years ago, social media wasn’t quite on the scene yet. Back then she had wished there was something more than just a few online blogs, magazines in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices that featured a few people of a certain demographic and age, or pamphlets, that she could turn to. Though nowadays the emergence of multiple social media platforms has provided an unmatched sense of comradery within the arthritis community. But what if social media one-day shifts gears or completely disappears? While that is unluckily to happen, it still sparked an idea to create something more tangible and long-lasting for not only people of today, but generations to come.
Fast forward to the summer of 2021, when a grant opportunity presented itself to make this book idea a possibility. Effie took a chance and applied to the HealtheVoices Impact Fund (for more information see the FAQ section). That fall, she was informed by the advisory board that they felt this project was very creative and would be quite impactful for many living with arthritis. The book will be published with ImagineWe Publishers.
To submit your story or learn more about the book project click here