I want you to pause for a moment and clear your mind. Once you feel clear and calm, I want you to think of anything that comes to mind when you envision the word "community". Who do you see? What does this look like? Is it an action, a person, an event, or some other thing? Does it feel like a far-off concept, or can you picture your sense of community clearly?
Over the last 30 or so years, my idea of community has evolved and shifted to mean a myriad of things. In grade school, my community was the classroom of wiggly children gathered on the scratchy illustrated rug to listen to our next story. In college, my community was a gaggle of sorority women who shared hot plates, hoodies, and gossip. In my late twenties, community to me was a chosen family of friends who hosted taco Tuesdays and laughed so hard at board games that we'd give up halfway through on following the rules. I have been blessed with community in my life, so I understand the value and need to have and partake in it. As someone who battles a multitude of illnesses, I also know that assembling a community of fellow chronic illness warriors is essential to my physical well-being as well as my emotional health. I now find myself following and collaborating with creators, innovators, and passionate folks who have dedicated themselves to empowering and participating in the multitudes of chronic illness communities.
I utilize social media frequently for these communities and believe the world is opening to the need for online communities (especially in the wake of the pandemic). Recently, the US government announced bills that will restrict or completely ban access to the online communities that I deeply cherish. With the potential passing of the Restrict Act and the Data Act, these online communities will no longer exist. I highly encourage you to reach out to your congressmen and women about these bills if you live in the US. While this post is not necessarily a call to political action, I will encourage you to know your rights, fight for your communities, and be informed.
This all brings me to today, and back to that calm moment that I first spoke of. In contemplating "community", I personally believe that it is essential for you to define what that looks like for you. There is no one definition or one meaning. There is no wrong way to participate in your community as long as you feel connected. But it is imperative that you find your community. This sometimes feels like a monumental task, yet the benefits of belonging far outweigh what it takes to get involved. With the internet at our fingertips, connecting to a supportive community is easier than ever. If you are a chronic illness warrior like me, you may want to follow @chronicwarriorcollective on Instagram. Her resources and groups are a wonderful way to find your people. Another great warrior to follow is @iam_catinamorrison for her amazing recommendations on how to stay healthy and connected in joy. I will soon be spotlighting some creators and apps that can help you on your chronic illness journey (be sure to check them out here).
No matter how you choose to connect, make sure that you do. Community can be many things, but it should have space in your life. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok to stay connected to our community of chronic illness travelers and joy seekers!