By hiding my disability, I was denying a huge part of what makes me, me.Joel Nelson – creator of joelvsarthritis.co.uk
It took over 20 years, but I finally found a voice for my arthritis story.
I’m Joel, and this is my arthritis story
I’m a man in my mid-thirties, from Norwich, UK who has had some form of arthritis or autoimmune disorder most of my life. Essentially my body’s immune system attacks itself in various parts of my body.
I have had Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JiA) since I was 11. Later, I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) in my 20’s. Today, my condition is commonly referred to as Psoriatic-associated Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis due to the predominant type and time of onset.
My condition, unfortunately, progresses with age and due to treatment to suppress my immune system, I am also vulnerable to infection – But I won’t let this stop me.
A voice for my arthritis story
I have always struggled with talking about my challenges and disabilities. So after a difficult year in 2019, I created this blog to share my experiences, raise awareness, and be an advocate for people fighting autoimmune disorders.
What started as an outlet for my frustration, a way for me to process all of the change that was happening to me, quickly escalated. In less than a year since I launched this website, I have featured in national radio campaigns and been interviewed by the BBC, The Times and other media outlets for national charities. I have had articles published by leading organisations and write freelance as a Community Advocate for Health Union, in the USA.
I am also a Patient Ambassador for Ampersand Health and Ambassador for WORD Day.
It made me realise what I was writing about was far more significant than my personal story. That there was a whole community of people out there in the same position as me, struggling with chronic pain, their mental health and living with a chronic autoimmune illness that needed a voice. From this point, I started writing for the community as well as myself.
For a complete list of my work with leading charities, health organisations, media work and published writing, visit my Portfolio.
Determined to make a difference
I am stubborn and do as much as my body permits. So although there will be posts when I’m struggling or having a bad day, I hope that I can:
Inspire, demonstrate the positive side of those of us fighting arthritis or living with chronic pain and show that anything is possible with the right attitude and motivation.
As an example, whilst living with arthritis for most of my life, I have:
- Played league hockey
- Played league rugby
- Completed RideLondon100 for Cancer Research
- Completed the Great North Run for Arthritis Research
- Toured the country in a band, releasing two albums
- Achieved a BSc (Hons) in Computing and IT Practice via distance learning when I was unable to play sport
My two greatest passions are music and sport. My arthritis has stopped me from enjoying either of these hobbies periodically throughout my life, but it’s what drove me to write. I can’t sit still – my life experiences of living with disability to different degrees throughout my life has led me to a need to contribute—a desire to create. I hope that my commitment and passion for this cause comes across in my writing.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Finally, I will not shy away from the associated challenges of living with an autoimmune disease. I hope that by openly talking about mental health, relationships, parenting and employment it can help others in a similar situation or newly diagnosed.
I want to show what is possible with arthritis, but it’s important also to highlight the struggle. The pain, isolation, challenges it brings with family, holding down a job and the strain placed on one’s mental health. I intend to start conversations, to break down stereotypes about arthritis being ‘just an old person’s disease’ and to portray the full picture of autoimmune disease. These ripples are felt way beyond inflamed joints and pain.
I want to make a difference.
You can read more about what prompted me to start this website and writing about my arthritis story here: Pain and Parenting; when the happiest year of your life becomes the hardest
I am always looking for feedback, contributions and guest posts to help build what I am trying to achieve with this project, so please do get in touch if you think you can help.
Whether you suffer from an autoimmune condition yourself, are a medical professional, family member or just have a story to tell re. anything autoimmune, I’m listening.
If you enjoy your time on this site or in any way find it useful, please don’t forget to subscribe to receive notifications of new posts and like, share and comment on any articles you enjoy. It really does help!
You can also support my awareness work and help fund more free-of-charge charity content by following me on Medium – where I post some of my best work and am paid based on reads. It really helps me to cover website costs and ‘keep the lights on’. Thank you.
Want JoelvsArthritis to write for your cause?
You can use this form or email address provided if you are interested in ‘Joel vs Arthritis’ contributing content to your cause, freelance writing for your publication, would like to get a quote from me or permission to use an article. See my portfolio for examples of my work for third parties.
If you’d rather send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read my arthritis story – Joel.
Please join the conversation on our Facebook Page, Instagram or Twitter and comment on the articles that appeal to you. I try to post different content on each platform, so you’re bound to find something that suits you.