How Fundraising Helped Me

Luckily, I have never suffered with my mental health (touch wood). After my diagnosis, it was the worst I had ever felt in my life. For months I got into this hole of sadness that I could not get out of. I was sick of being sad and angry. I was tired of being sick, I felt frustrated with my body. I needed to get out of this hole. I didn’t think this was possible.

National Arthritis Day

The 12th of October was National Arthritis Day here in Ireland. Arthritis Ireland, the main charity in Ireland for arthritis, set up a fundraiser for this day that caught my eye on social media. I donated. After this, I received an email thanking me for my donation and if I wanted to set up my own fundraiser, I could... Interesting, I thought to myself. I decided to do this. Mainly to take my mind away from whatever AS-related misery it was focusing on at that present moment.

This gave me a goal. My fundraiser was called "Walk 100km in 30 days for Ankylosing Spondylitis." This gave me the motivation to get out walking every day with my family. I needed this push. I had never participated in running a fundraiser before. This was totally new territory to me. I didn’t know what to expect.

Raising awareness

This was a great decision. Immediately my spirits were lifted. It would turn out that getting involved with this fundraising would be great for my mental health. I began advocating and raising awareness for myself. I posted the fundraiser on social media. To my astonishment local people kept resharing. It got more shares than I could imagine. I was a little shocked, to be honest. I set the goal for €200. I raised over €2,000 euro. And raised awareness, it seems every local person now knows of AS. Fundraising and advocating for my AS was very cathartic.

When I began, I felt embarrassed. I live in a small seaside town and have worked in most of the restaurants/cafes/shops over the years. When I walk down the street there are always people I know and would say hello to. When I stopped working in the café, I might see a regular customer and they would ask why I’m not working and I would say I have hurt my back. After a while, I met this couple that were regulars in the café. They asked like all the other customers did and I decided to tell them the truth. They were in shock and didn’t know what to say or how to react.

Why I love advocating

This is why I began advocating, why I started the fundraiser. To firstly, help myself and secondly so people would have a better understanding of this illness that no one seems to know about. I can understand their lack of knowledge as I had never heard of it until the day of my diagnosis.

Now I feel comfortable talking about AS with the “Locals” and extended family who are usually quick to offer their help or any bits of advice etc. regarding back pain. They may not be experts but it's always nice when people show they care, even though they do not understand.

I would advise all people to fundraise for something close to their hearts. It really helped with my mental health, and it could help you too!

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