What Does It Mean to Leave an Online Community?

It turns out that leaving an online community that you have been a part of for almost seven years is more difficult than I imagined. I’ve had to ask myself many questions since posting “Letting Go” such as, “What exactly does leaving an online community mean?  Do I stop reading RA posts?  If I do read them, do I ‘like’ them since I claimed I was leaving the community? Can I share RA posts? I feel like I am walking in unknown territory. What’s the protocol for leaving a community?  Now that I have publicly announced my leaving, is that really what I want?

In the last few weeks I’ve been pretty busy in conversation with myself.  Some of the conversations have been encouraging and others have left me frustrated and confused. On a positive note, my writer’s block has disappeared since announcing my departure. I feel excited about writing again. Why?  I think sometimes I convince myself that I have to write exclusively about  RA or I will lose readers. This frustrates me because I find it difficult to write regularly about rheumatoid arthritis when it is no longer a day to day adventure for me. Plus, when I do feel good my mind needs to free itself of the concept of pain.

A conversation with my sister reminded me that when I started this blog it is was for me to put my thoughts about life into writing. Having others read it didn’t really occur to me. But my conversations with myself have led me to recognize that I like having people read my stuff and I like reading their stuff.  My followers have helped me though some really tough days in ways that family and friends just couldn’t. And when I have written about topics other than rheumatoid arthritis, they have always been met positively. My mind keeps asking, “What is really going on Cateepoo?”

With warmer weather and sunshine today, I feel a huge block of stress melting away and everything starting to make sense again.  I remembered back to 2010 when I chose to go back on meds after my two year strike. I was frustrated that I hadn’t gotten to the root of what was causing my rheumatoid arthritis but at the same time was in so much pain. I felt trapped by the idea of having to take high risk medications the rest of my life. My naturopath suggested not thinking of it as “all or nothing”.  Take the meds for now knowing the decision is always mine if I want to go off again. Blogging is the same.  It doesn’t have to be all rheuamtoid arthritis or nothing. In fact, it never has been. I have always loved Pollyanna Penguin’s description of me on her blog roll, “The Life & Adventures of Cateepoo (about life with a bit of RA thrown in.)”  She gets what my blog is about so why don’t I?  When and why did I convince myself that it has to be all RA or nothing?

Ultimately, I don’t know if I can or want to 100% leave the community.  I think my “Letting Go” post was my reaction wrapped up in a lot of feelings: restrictions I put on myself related to my blog, my father-in-law’s death, a super busy semester, the need to rediscover myself and having absolutely no idea what that means yet, and just some general hurt feelings. Luckily, I have privately heard back from several people that my voice will be missed.  I really appreciate that.  Most importantly, my conversations have reminded me that I DO have rheumatoid arthritis. Karma rudely reminded me of that when I had a nasty flare right after announcing that my RA is in a good place. (Ha! Take that Cateepoo!) I DO need to know that I’m not alone and others are out there experiencing similar thoughts as me, and I need to let others know they are not alone.  Finally, I have a lot of good friends I have met through the years who I still have a lot to learn from.  They will be my friends either way, but being part of the community just strengthens those ties.

It’s been a wild few weeks in my heart and mind.  Luckily, my heart always finds its way.  I just have to be patient and listen. My heart has always known I am more than rheumatoid arthritis and my blog is proof of that.  Why I let my mind think otherwise is beyond my energy levels. What I do know is that I am ready to explore new things in my life.  What those things are, I have no idea yet.  But finding a new path in my life does not mean I have to leave my old familiar one behind. I hope I can still play my part in bringing a positive voice to the rheumatoid arthritis community as my heart and mind feel the need.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my other posts reflecting on life.  

2 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Leave an Online Community?

  1. Hi Cathy! I think it is important to hear from those, whose RA is under control (for the most part)..,,and i have always believed that it is important that RA not define us..It can become hard to ignore, when it is not controlled, but even then, it is just a portion of who we are..I can also understand your feelings regarding the online community..I have witnessed and been involved in some big disappointments, as far as some of the supposed RA online advocates. And part of it, was that everything was from an anti medical, and a more negative stance. Not to sugarcoat everything, but hope is vital, in our fight against RA, and important in our lives, no matter what we are facing…And I am so sorry for your family's loss. We just lost my dad a few weeks ago..It is life-altering.

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  2. We all more than RA. We echoed this in saying “I have RA, RA doesn't have me.” So why limit expressing ourselves to only talk about the disease? Like your blog, mine is about life. My life. Which has many things in it and RA is one of them. But it is only one. There is also disability, chronic pain, Fibro, movies, Lucy, good books, family, adventures, photography and I should probably stop rambling now. Life is multifaceted and RA is reflected in some of those facets. But only some. We write to express ourselves and to connect with others of a similar bent. We don't write to be famous. I'm so glad that you are no longer stuck and there is finally the kind of silence that enables you to listen to your heart. I trust your heart — it always leads me to the right thing.

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