Ellie Vs. Strength

Dearest Readers,

Last night at 2am I laid in my bed, and I listened intently as the wind sounded off like a wolf pack and as the thunder boomed, shaking my entire complex. At 25 years old and more physically and emotionally fragile than ever, I listened as I watched lightning dance in the darkness, and I felt fear stinging my mind. This morning I realized that the fear I felt was not only from the storm, but rather the storm amplified the fear I already have inside me.

I was raised just as how most people of my generation and every generation before was,  drowned out by the idea that showing emotion was akin to losing your strength. Between the media and our communities we were plagued with such phrases as, “big girls don’t cry,” or “boys don’t cry,” or “stop being so sensitive.” Once my brother told me, “you’re one of the strongest girls I know, but you’re so damn sensitive.” Just in case you couldn’t point out everything wrong with this remark, I made it extra bold. The fact that he was astonished that a girl could have any level of strength at all is equally as irritating as the fact that he, as well as far too many others, believe that my emotional sensitivity negates my strength.

Often times we also find that those who suffer the most, whether from poverty, illness, abuse and/or other, seem to be far stronger than those who have suffered less. The rest of society along with many people within these groups begin to assume that if one suffers, they don’t need to show emotion as much because, “well, their lives are always awful, so they must be used to it.” These people are often seen as inhumanly strong by others, and are then left behind. Or, if you are one of those people who often is seen by those around you as a “feel good machine,” where no matter what you are dealing with in your life, you still somehow manage to help, listen to, and take care of others, the rest of society tends to forget that while you are strong, you are still in the end just a human being.

Here’s a reality check for the human race:

  • Being allowed to show your emotions is not a privilege. It is a human and very basic right.
  • Showing emotions does not by any means weaken strength.
  • Even the strongest people you know still need help, support, and someone to listen to them. No one is exempt of the basic needs of understanding and compassion. This is why The Avengers exist – even superheroes can’t handle life all on their own.

A war veteran who has seen horrific scenes of battle is still allowed to cry when he remembers those images, or cry happily as he watches his daughter marry the love of her life. A doctor who has watched countless people die after her attempts to save their lives is still allowed to be angry and cry after those deaths, despite her best attempts to create armor in hopes that the next death won’t hurt as badly as the one before.

Even those who have suffered a thousand times over and who attempt to create armor to shield themselves from emotional pain are never truly protected from it. Just because others do not see the tears on a person’s face does not mean the person is not crying out from their souls. Likewise, seeing those tears does not make them feeble. The strongest act any person can do, in the end, is allow themselves to feel. 

When I had my hysterectomy (now nearly a year ago) I woke up from my surgery in my hospital room crying frantically. I was terribly confused and for some reason driven manic by the idea that I would be left completely alone. I remember faint glimpses of a nurse holding my hands, her pretty face looking down at me repeating, “I’m here.” I blacked out again and didn’t wake up for hours after.

It wasn’t until a week after my best friend who had been in the room with us told me that when he walked in, he saw the nurse sitting on my bed, holding my hands, crying. “Why was she crying?” I asked, having only a small dreamlike memory of it. “Because you were afraid to be alone and it made her very sad how scared and upset you were,” he replied. His response left me in shock. I made a nurse cry? This woman who has seen human suffering like many can’t even begin to imagine, sat on my hospital bed, holding my hands, and cried with me.

Unless a person works with patients of some kind or is a patient themselves, this may not seem like much. Yet a year later, I am left in awe of this beautiful nurse, who despite her mentally and physically challenging career, instead of creating a thick armor that repressed her true feelings, allowed herself to be left just a little bit open . She cried with me and comforted me, regardless of the facts that she was probably exhausted beyond compare near the end of a 12 hour shift, or that she hardly knew me at all. I may have had over a hundred nurses in my lifetime, many of which have kept their compassion to a minimum for one reason or another. While they were by no means bad nurses, the ones such as my nurse from last year are the ones that I could never possibly forget.

I have cried every day for months now. I have panic attacks that are relentless. Every day I am living my life with a great deal of fear for an even greater amount of reasons. Most of the world tells me this makes me weak, and that I need to be stronger, or should stop being so sensitive. The rest of the world rarely sees me break down, or take my bluntness and transparency regarding my life as incredible strength. While that’s certainly better than the first option, it leaves me dead, because those who believe I have that amazing strength believe that because my life has been a constant battle all my 25 years, that I’m “used to it,” so I don’t require any support or help. And so they keep going, in need of my help constantly, yet never thinking to offer up their own. Both of these are extremely wrong.

I am a remarkably strong human being, as are the others that suffer like me. However, we are not invincible and we are not Marvel’s inhuman characters that you see showcased on silver screens. Even so, my strength does not  mean that I can handle it all on my own, or that  I can handle everyone else’s without breaking into pieces. It also does not mean that when I cry or panic that my strength is lessened. My strength wavers on a daily basis, as I assume most people’s does. But it does not waver because of my tears. It wavers because of the constant battle that I fight every waking moment.

I am not exempt, either way, from needing those I love to reach out to me, support me, help me, or listen to me. In the end, I am just an exhausted, sick girl who is both in dire need of receiving support just as I constantly crave to give it. I can still be strong while being terrified of the storm.

Is it possible for us to brave it together?

Pick you up, let you down, when I wanna go
To a place I can hide.
You know me, I had plans, but they just disappeared
To the back of my mind.

Oh can it be, The voices calling me
They get lost, and out of time
I should’ve seen it glow, but everybody knows
That a broken heart is blind.

~The Black Keys – Little Black Submarines

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