Living with a chronic condition like arthritis can change not just your life but the way you live it. And because of that, for many, the word “independence” can take on an entirely different meaning.

We asked members of our rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) communities: What does “independence” mean to you? Here’s what they had to say.

“Independence is difficult because it’s been so long since I’ve been able to do things by myself, that if I woke up pain-free, I wouldn’t know what to do first. Getting out of bed without assistance would definitely be at the top of my list!” — Crystal M., living with RA

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“Independence is to wake up pain-free, be able to walk normally in the mornings, and drive without being in so much pain that each red light is another very painful minute holding my foot on the break! I’ve only had RA for a year and it feels like forever. It’s very hard to live with physically and, more importantly, mentally!” — Renee M., living with RA

“Independence to me would mean being able to do all the things I used to without help. Doing the grocery shopping — which we now have delivered — walking the dogs, going shopping with friends, using stairs with ease, going to the gym, working a full day without pain. These are all things I can no longer do and I hate that this disease has robbed me of my independence.” — Tania C., living with RA

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“Independence always felt like the opposite of weakness. I’m having a really hard time accepting that letting go and allowing my family to help me isn’t a sign of weakness, it actually allows me more independence. Because, when I have good days, I always completely overdo it, which means I’m going to be more dependent on them for a while.” — Bonnie H., living with RA

“Independence means being able to go on small trips with my girlfriends and not slow them down. It would mean I could fish in a tournament again. Just be free of pain, stiffness, and immobility. It’s what I pray for, to have my life back.” — Gloria H., living with OA

“To me, independence means knowing the difference between struggling to do some things on my own and knowing when to ask for help. In the past, I would stubbornly do everything on my own, even if it put me in more pain. Now I know that asking my husband or family and friends for assistance is not weak but actually makes me stronger.” — Alyssa B., living with RA

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“Independence to me would be waking up after a solid eight hours of sleep without any pain whatsoever. I would wake up with a smile on my face. It would be a new day and a beautiful day. No more feeling alone and feeling life is passing you by.” — Nancy Z., living with RA

“Independence for me is vital. Without it, I don’t want to live. Accepting practical help and asking for help has kept my independence.” — Lisa R., living with RA

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“I hate to ask for help or talk about my pain or difficulties because people can get fed up with people who are unwell for long periods of time. Even visiting the doctor makes you feel like you’re just a write-off and not worth investing in, because you probably won’t get better … So, you resort to accepting that you have less importance as a human being, less control of your life, and you resort to accepting loneliness. Independence is no longer just about the freedom to do things, or the freedom from pain and despair; it’s also about the freedom to have the quality of life you want to have, and to be valued, and able to make friends with people you share interests with again, especially if your hobbies were active or outdoors.” — Wendy T., living with RA

“Independence to me would be spending the day with my family hiking and playing volleyball on the beach. Relaxing in the sun and not having to worry about sun poisoning. Being able to wake up each morning pain-free and going to a daily job that made me feel I was making a difference. Free of the daily medications! I consider myself blessed regardless, because at least I have a new day!” — Deb G., living with RA

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“To be able to live my everyday life and play with my grandchildren.” — Louise E., living with OA

“To be able to earn a proper living again. To be well enough to do that every day and to feel valued for that. RA has robbed me of so much.” — Annie F., living with RA

“The freedom to do without thinking if I’ll spark an inflamed joint or miss a pill or injection.” — Delorme B., living with RA

“Independence ... to wake every morning without any pain, or sickness, or medication!” — Tina T., living with RA

“Being able to provide for myself. I can’t hold a steady job with a steady income, so I live with my parents, and I rely upon them. I’d like to have something going for me — independence would help.” — Carly R., living with OA

What does independence mean to you? Share your story on one of our Facebook communities or let us know on Twitter.