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What Being 'Active' Means When You Live With a Chronic Illness

Active is a relative term.

For some, it means running a marathon.

For others it means grocery shopping.

For others still, it means taking a shower.

To me, it means doing the best I can on any given day.

In my town, there’s two women who really inspire me. One I know a bit more personally, and I know she has multiple sclerosis. She lives in a home sometimes and has a great deal of assistance, but I still see her out and around town quite frequently with her family.

When I see her, I think of “active” as being out with a smile. She has one of the most encouraging smiles because I know there’s a lot of pain behind it. I know she doesn’t want to smile some days, but her personality drives her to share joy with those around her.

She chooses to be “active” by sharing hope and love with everyone she sees. That doesn’t mean her family doesn’t see her suffering, and that they don’t sit and cry with her, because I’m certain they do. That’s what family is for. But the way she chooses to be active is showing up in the community and spreading joy.

The other woman who inspires me is a complete stranger to me. I know nothing about her story, only that she travels through town on a motorized wheelchair. It looks like it is difficult for her, but she does it anyway. She is active in rain, snow, sunshine, nearly every day she leaves her house.

I’m sure this isn’t to be inspiring, but out of necessity. I’d be willing to bet that she doesn’t have someone to help her, or maybe doesn’t want to take advantage of community resources to drive her places. There is such a negative stigma against using charitable organizations and I wish that was different

But whatever the reason, there she is. She remains active in the community, even if it’s just going for a ride or a trip to the grocery store.

The first lady walks with her family, and smiles at friends she’s known for years. Both women remain active members of the world around them, when that same world makes it tempting to hide under a rock and allow self-pity, pain or loneliness to take control.

What keeps those of us with chronic illnesses strong and healthier is maintaining involvement with our community, and never giving in to the darkness that tries to take hold.

However it looks for you, always remain active.

Getty image via iprogressman