The Trials of Being “So Strong”
I hear phrases like this all the time and I sit and wonder just where is the limit on strong?
“You are so strong.”
“You are so much stronger then I am.”
“I could never do what you do or live with the pain you do.”
“You do not need sedating or pain med because you can handle the pain.”
“You are such a warrior.”
Being strong is a choice we have to make with every minute of every day. Sometimes, being known as “strong” can in reality feel like a punishment because those that see others as strong think they need no help, they need no support, they feel no fear or despair and that they basically can do it all alone. And I can tell you that it is absolutely the biggest bunch of bull anyone could say.
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Being strong is a choice but sometimes being strong is a last resort, too. It is a time of being battered so much that you either sink or swim….you either live or die. And so from somewhere deep inside us we pull out that last vestige of reserve and we push forward to try to make it through whatever it is. And I can tell you, if you have ever run a race and when it gets down to that last sprint when your body is screaming in agony and you try to push through it…that pain sears you forever.
My doctor thinks I am so strong and handle pain so well that I can handle the procedure I just had done without sedation. Well, the truth is…he is right. I can handle it but it would be so nice to NOT have to handle it, to be able just occasionally lay there on the table and take it like everyone else with sedation and barely a memory of it when I leave the hospital. Just because I have proven that I can handle it, it at times can feel like punishment for being strong.
See, once people see you being strong, they want to keep testing you, pushing you and it becomes like an endless race until one day you want to curl up in a ball and say “no more!!”. I felt that way the other day. I tried to bare my heart and soul to someone to explain how I have felt with the treatment and now the medical procedures that I am taking to help the pain in my spine. I am fighting with reserve right now. Know what that means? It means that I have run out of my normal fuel and fighting on what little I keep in reserve. But, more importantly, it means that now is the time I need support and yet as I have learned, most people disappear when things are tough. Fair weather friends are always part of life. They stay when things are good and disappear when things are tough, and then return when things are good again. And it is times like these that if you cease to be useful, then you are ignored. It is normal to have times where you can not be there for others and during these times, do not let anyone make you feel less than you are. If we are only worth what we are able to give, then something is out of kilter.
I tried to bare my soul which it not something I normally do and explain what it feels like to lose the ability to care for yourself, what it feels like to know you can not get up and get what you need and what it feels like when people want to shut down your fighting tool . I hear things like “Oh just focus on your battle” or “Do not think about this or that. You have too much to think about.” What I could not make them see was that focusing on another easier fight helps me make it through the tough ones. If I distract myself with this battle such as the book my son is writing, then I am not drowning in the current battle.
And as I laid my soul wide open, I realized that you can not explain to someone, not even someone you love and trust dearly, what it is like if they have never been there. People complain all the time about how tired they get of trying to explain to people what being chronically ill is like and my response is “then quit trying to explain”. And that is what I did. I just quit trying to explain for people think they get it but they really do not. It is like cooking a dish that no one has ever heard of and trying to tell them what it taste like. If they have never tasted anything similar to it, they have no idea. Sort of like trying to explain to people how being strong is not always a choice but rather it is sometimes the only option left. And if you try to bare your heart and soul to tell what you are feeling, most people..not all, but most people think you are just being “emotional” and the strain of the battle is making you less able to cope. They do not realize that you were trusting them with a gift…the very essence of who you are.
So, when you are struggling. Remember that being strong is a choice and sometimes it is a last resort. And if you find yourself feeling like you are battling alone, then hang on to the one friend you can count on…yourself. And use yourself to entertain yourself, to encourage yourself, to love yourself, and to make yourself smile. And know that this too shall pass and while it might make you stronger, it does leave scars behind and so be gentle and loving to yourself. Treat yourself if you can and try to ride through it. For you can and will make it. And know danLrene cares and prays for all of you.
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