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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Your article is true on many levels as well as quite humbling. Because of our efforts to live our best lives possible despite health challenges we can and often are an inspiration to others and that includes you Kelly. All those who strive against overwhelming circumstances and succeed be the success large or small inspire others. Yet, it is also true that we don’t feel inspiring because we are keenly aware of the struggles of our fellow sojourners and feel we are merely living our lives like so many others are as well and so have not earned such an esteemed distinction. Considering the other option, that of crawling under the covers and giving up, I still say I am no hero but rather merely a pragmatist.

    But when my husband and others share that I am an inspiration to them who am I to declare that I am not? Though I cringe and say, as you do, “No no no–I am just trying to get by the best way I know how,” feeling like an inspiration and being an inspiration are two vastly different things. Though I am uncomfortable with being so admired it is somewhat like discounting a healthy person’s pain because it falls below the high threshold of my own. Their pain is just as real as mine and their respect for the perseverance and resilience they admire in me is just as real from their perspective as their pain.

    The fact that you’ve thought so deeply about this issue and deny the distinction demonstrates that you are not guilty of false pride. Yet, I wonder if by continuing to shake my head and pushing away the honor I’m not also in some way degrading their sincerity? So as uncomfortable as it is for me the next time someone tells me that I am their inspiration I will swallow my opposition and simply thank them hoping it doesn’t come across as vanity.

    Thanks for helping me think this subject through. Inspiring article.

    CynthiaV, Team Member

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