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World AS Day 2012: Defining Awareness is Literally Awesome!
3 min read

World AS Day 2012: Defining Awareness is Literally Awesome!

It is that time of year again. Yep, May 5th is World AS Day!! Horrah!

So apart from wearing your multitude of AS wrist bands, while spamming social media sites to ask all to celebrate this special day, what does it actually mean? Why do we have World AS day? Well I guess you have come to the right place, because I might tell you, in a roundabout way. 🙂

In today’s modern age it seems to be the common social practice to misuse or overuse certain words and phrases. Like totally!! I mean it’s literally killing me how the English language is sometimes used, ya know what I mean? Seriously! The English language is awesome! So why not use it correctly?

One word I have noticed being used a lot in recent times is ‘awareness’. It’s what World AS Day is all about right?The word ‘awareness’ is becoming fairly synonymous with chronic illness. But what does it truly mean? We always harp on about how we need to raise awareness, but to what extent? At what point is someone classed as ‘aware’ of an illness like Ankylosing Spondylitis?

I’m not saying that the word ‘awareness’ is often over or mis-used, but I do think we should understand its true meaning if we are going to achieve our aims. For instance; telling all your twitter followers, or your friends on Facebook about the latest AS project is not likely to make many, if anyone at all newly aware. Mainly because they are likely to already know you, in which case you will have shared your story, and made them aware that this invisible disease exists. And let’s be honest, when people are spamming your twitter feed or timeline it starts to get rather irritating, regardless of the cause and the genuine good nature of the poster. Which might even put people off looking at what you’re trying to promote.

Even wonderfully amazing and literally awesome blogs like EndlessTrax do not do a great deal to raise awareness. Again if you think about it, you are all reading this because you have AS ,or know about AS. There are people who find this blog who have no prior connection to me, or our AS community (and they do find me I checked!), they too probably already know the words Ankylosing Spondylitis, or the search engines wouldn’t have suggested EndlessTrax to them, would they?

There are many projects out there doing wonderful things for AS. They bring sufferers together, forming new friendships and providing a community support. So is awareness just for people who have never heard of AS? Or can we AS sufferers become aware too??

In the view of Neuroscience, awareness spans across various levels. Basic awareness (primary consciousness) is the ability to integrate sensations and stimulus from the environment into one’s feelings, which then guide our behaviour. Being able to express these feeling, describe them, and understand the link between your environment and behaviour is a ‘Higher’ form of awareness. This corticol involvement (from the cerebral cortex) in your consciousness is probably better known as self-awareness.

So whats this have to do with raising awareness?

Well I asked before if people who already have AS can become aware? The science would suggest we can. By learning how our environment and other factors affect our behaviours, we evolve our primary consciousness from our illness, and develop a higher awareness and understanding of our AS’s effect on our behaviours. Without this we are not able to change our behaviours. By changing our negative behavioural responses we will be able to manage our condition better in the long-term. Ultimately effecting our overall happiness and well-being.

Now we still haven’t really defined awareness yet. I could have just copied a random definition from a book, or from the beloved wikipedia. But I won’t.

I want you to share what the word ‘awareness’ means to you. What is its significance? Is awareness for us all, or just for the people who have never heard of AS? Could it really just be an overused word? But more importantly I want to know, how are you spending World AS Day? What does this day mean to you?