I’m an Inspiration, But I’m Also Nothing Special

It sounds like a contradiction, but I’m definitely both an inspiration and nothing special. Sure, I have struggled to live well for 40 years with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and that sometimes feels inspirational. But I’m also nothing special in that I’m just a person trying to live my life as best I can.

RA symptoms and accessibility barriers

It’s true that living with rheumatoid arthritis has not been easy. I was sick since age two. I’ve learned to live with chronic pain and disabilities. The struggle with fatigue is a real burden. Sometimes I feel like an inspiration just for getting out of bed in the morning! (Do ya’ feel me?!) Yet, I focus my attitude on enjoying life and living as best as I can.

The challenges of the disease are factual and impossibly real. They cannot be ignored. And my disabilities cannot be ignored as well. I use a wheelchair to get around and it can be dang hard sometimes to get through my day (blocked or nonexistent ramps, broken elevators, and other physical barriers to my wheels).

Sometimes, it feels impossible

Sometimes when my RA is flaring and I have a bad day getting around in my wheelchair, I feel like I should get a medal for just getting through the day and out of the house! It is exhausting to be coping with a serious chronic illness along with significant disabilities. It’s both health struggles that I’m battling and also accessibility and attitudinal challenges.

Combined with just trying to do regular things (like work, spend time with friends and family, travel, and enjoy culture and arts), it can sometimes feel impossible. RA in itself could be a full-time occupation.

We are managing our own struggles

Yet, I don’t truly think of myself as an inspiration. To be honest, it makes me uncomfortable because I know the truth: I am just another flawed person trying to live their life. I can be a jerk. I can be impatient. I can be angry. I have all those human qualities that truly take me out of the ‘inspirational’ contest. I am really nothing special.

Some really regular stuff

We all have our struggles and (hopefully) are just trying to do our best with whatever those are. I’m not special in having health challenges or disabilities. There’s a lot of us! In fact, I think the latest estimate in the U.S. is about 20 percent of the population or about 50 million people! If we’re lucky, we’ll all go through health challenges and/or disabilities due to living a long life. This just doesn’t make me special.

There’s also plenty of other life challenges all around us—globally. If you are perfectly healthy and able-bodied you could still be struggling with an almost infinite variety of issues. Or have family, friends, or loved-ones struggling. Basically, we’re all either coping with or adjacent to life problems. We’re all trying to live through this thing called life.

I'm just living my life with rheumatoid arthritis

So, while I have moments where I want to say “I’m a g*ddam inspiration!”, they are always fleeting because the reality is that I know that I am not. Just like everyone else, I have my moments of triumphing over my RA, or conquering an accessibility battle, or just accomplishing something basic in my life despite the struggles of my disease and disability. But I am also tempered enough to know the truth that I’m nothing special and can feel the solidarity of being together in that boat with all my fellow humans.

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