onlinecommunityCJWith the advent of the new CreakyJoints website, it was suggested to me that it might be nice to write about CreakyJoints itself, and what it means and has meant to me over the years. So, without further ado, here it is.

Someone asked me the other day how long I had been writing for CreakyJoints, and I had to admit that I didn’t know, exactly. So, I went back and looked up the first e-mails exchanged between me and Seth Ginsberg, and it turns out that I have been a contributing member of CJ since June 2010. That’s a bit more than four years for those of you who are counting, believe it or not. Keeping the pace up writing two posts a month, and missing no more than three in all that time, that puts the total somewhere around 100 blog entries. If anyone had told me I’d be looking back someday and contemplating 100 different topics that I’d discussed with the Internet at large, I’d have said they were crazy. If you include the posts and columns I have done outside of CreakyJoints and The Huffington Post, as well as my book, So Young, that adds up to a whole lot of ‘ritin! It all started with Seth and CreakyJoints.

I could tell you that CreakyJoints represents the pinnacle of autoimmune information available on the web today, or I could tell you that CJ has created the biggest arthritis social media community on the Internet currently, and both would be true. Of course, while these are both great accomplishments, if I’m being honest, what CreakyJoints means to me is a beginning – the beginning – of more than just a writing career.

Creaky Joints and the Global Healthy Living Foundation have been working for a long time to bring the plight of autoimmune disease and rheumatoid arthritis into the public eye. Seth Ginsberg started the crusade a while ago, and he himself lives every day with Spondylarthritis (also known as spondyloarthropathy).  During his quest to find his own personal medical solutions, Seth visited the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, a known bastion of rheumatic and autoimmune disease knowledge. There he met a nurse named Linda, and she took note of his website and the catchy name by which it went – CreakyJoints. It stuck with Linda so much so that when I visited the same hospital and told Linda I wanted to try writing about arthritis, she immediately remembered Seth and his “CreakyJoints,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Back in 2010, the CJ website was a little unwieldy and a lot rough around the edges (sorry guys, but I say it with love), but it also had a diehard community of fans who made the site a success by pure strength of will and elbow grease. The same can be said for the small band of workers who kept everything running behind the scenes, and, of course, Seth and CreakyJoints co-founder Louis Tharp, who never stopped believing that everyone with autoimmune disease deserved a place to go for information, help, and a shoulder to lean on. Both of them believed that just because autoimmune illness isn’t a sexy cause and doesn’t have a well-known celebrity to speak out about the horror of living in chronic pain every day, it doesn’t mean the victims are any less deserving of knowledge, resources, and, most importantly, comfort.

For me, personally, CreakyJoints represents a central location in my life, both online and offline. It is my headquarters, and when I picture my writing career in my mind, I always see CreakyJoints at the center, with all my other endeavors branching out from it. I have made great and lifelong friends because of my days at CJ as well, people who amaze me every single day with their resolve to fight the illnesses they have been saddled with. If I ever need motivation to go on, or confirmation that my suffering is nothing compared to others, then all I need to do is head over to the CJ Facebook page, and I see thousands upon thousands of others like me who are living their lives to the fullest each and every day. When I am feeling especially upset or sad, I can make a quick post or Tweet, and the CreakyJoints community will be right there to help me remember that what I do matters. The comments, e-mails, and posts I receive from people who rely on my column are truly inspiring. I used to say to myself, “who would ever care what I have to say?” Well, the CJ community has proved me very wrong indeed, because not only do people care, but they are always ready to lend a hand if I’m ever in need.

One other thing that comes to mind when I think of CreakyJoints is support. When I go into the hospital for a procedure or visit the doctor and receive bad news, one quick Tweet or Facebook update later I can be reassured that there is at least one other person out there who shares my fears. For some reason, things always feel a little less frightening and hurt a little bit less when I find out someone, somewhere, has my back and knows exactly what I’m experiencing. I don’t even have to know their real name, and they might do nothing more than send me an emoticon smiley thumbs up, but that’s enough. CreakyJoints makes that possible.

What does CreakyJoints mean to you? It’s a very complicated question, but it’s also very easy. Funny how that is. You know that CreakyJoints means help and comfort, but beyond that, it gets very complex and particularly unique for each individual that visits. This is why it is so difficult to put into words all that CreakyJoints means to me, so I’ll leave it like this. If I had to condense what CJ means to me in one simple word it would be “home.”

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