To the People Who Ask Why I Play This Sport When I Have Chronic Illnesses

Recently, I’ve been asked multiple times why I’m playing a sport if my illnesses are as bad as I say they are. I’ve been asked why my doctors are allowing me to continue being active and playing a high-risk sport. That I shouldn’t be mobile. That I shouldn’t be able to ride horses. That because of my diagnosis, I should be lying in bed.

That is something I don’t agree with. I am an equestrian. I ride horses because it’s my passion, and I’m going to follow my passion. Riding horses and being around horses is therapeutic. The barn is the one place where I don’t have to pretend to be happy. Rather than having the need to hide that I’m in chronic pain, I’m actually able to forget the pain I’m in. It’s the one place where I’m not judged based on my appearance. Instead, it’s my ability. I feel as if I’m an equal. It’s an equal “playing field.”

Yes, riding with illnesses is challenging. I’m not denying that. But you learn how to cope. You ride the days you feel well enough. You listen to your body closely. You learn signs that you may be pushing yourself too hard or you may need to take a break. You listen to your doctors, but you also have to listen to yourself. For me, riding horses is beneficial to my body. It’s the right amount of exercise my body needs to manage my pain disorder. It’s not a high-impact sport (something I cannot do). It keeps my blood circulating enough to avoid turning purple.

Just because I have illnesses doesn’t mean I should have to put my life on hold. I’m young. I should be going out with friends, attending campus functions and doing the sport I love the most. I should be living my life. My illnesses do not define who I am. My illnesses do not stop me from achieving. My illnesses do not control me. I may have to do something differently than someone else. I may have to try more times to get the same result as someone else. But that doesn’t make me any less of a person than someone.

While fighting illnesses, you learn to cope. You cope with the pain you’re in. You adapt to whatever life decides to throw at you next. You adapt in hopes to keep your life somewhat the same. You continue living the life you want. You do not let anything stop you. There may be setbacks, but you keep going. You do what you can to live as “normal” of a life as possible. You persevere. You’re not your illnesses. Your illnesses do not define you.

You define yourself.

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