I AM STRONG!
Always have been, and hopefully always will be. I didn’t choose to get this disease; I’m pretty sure no one did (or any other disease for that matter.) When I was confronted with the truth, for the real reason that first my foot felt like it was chronically asleep, then the leg, then both legs, to finally not being able to walk without assistance; when I was told that I had an incurable disease, I didn’t even think to ask “why me.” It just was. Just as with everything else that happens in life that I can’t control, I accepted it and moved forward – even IF stumbling like a drunk at times.
I accepted it; but didn’t submit to it. I remember reading a lot of different statements (bloggers, fb groups, twitter followers) to the tune of “I may have MS, but IT doesn’t have me.” That is exactly how I would put it – if only I had thought of that myself, damn it! When my divorce was taking place, and I thought about the idea of actually being divorced with three kids with MS (or a triple D as a friend put it; Diseased, Divorced and Desperate) I knew that I might well be choosing to live life alone. BUT alone felt better than the alternative; of the loneliness and unhappiness I had lived with for so many years. Long before getting MS and all the shit that came along with it I knew that I wasn’t happy. How ironic that a disease that weakens people, both physically and mentally has made me so much stronger. It has pushed me to do things that I never thought I would have the strength to pursue. Even though I was “disabled” I proved to myself that I was able; I remembered how to stick up for myself and my happiness, and realize that I deserve it.
But I have also always believed that part of that strength – how I have defined it, was to not ask for help. I have always thought that in order to uphold this strong exterior that the world sees and maintain my own sense of self and being capable, I must do things for myself, and by myself. One of the most valuable things that I have “gotten” from MS, is the knowledge and belief that asking for help, does not make me weak. In that sentence, I included both knowledge, and belief because I have come to understand about myself that just because I know something, does not necessarily mean I will act upon it, or incorporate it into my life and personal belief system. In order for something to truly make a difference to me and my life, I have to embrace it completely; entirely believe that it is true. Although I have never viewed others as being weak for asking for help, and would jump at the chance to help someone else; I had a completely different set of rules for myself.
I am not sure where or when I developed this mind-set, what happened that made me believe that having someone else assist me meant I was weak, or maybe less independent. What ever it was obviously had a great impact on who I became as a person as I grew up. I don’t remember ever feeling or thinking differently; part of being self-reliant or able was to do it on my own. I do wonder when it came to pass that I began to view asking for support as being fragile or delicate.
I am sure that there are many that know me, that are not surprised to hear this about me. But they may find it peculiar that it took me becoming disabled to finally begin to see the double standard that I had created and chose to live by. To finally understand that sometimes what makes someone strong IS asking for help. I know that I am still not great at it; that there are plenty of times that I annoy the shit out of Shawn with my “I can do it” attitude and stubbornness, many days that my friends wish I would finally ask for a favor, and endless months that my parents feel that I have pulled away and am still trying to do it alone. But the first step is that I now see IT, really clearly. I started out this post by saying “I am strong…and hopefully always will be.” By writing all of this and really thinking about it, I realize that I need to take the “hopefully” out of that statement. I am now going to live with the sentiment that I will always be strong, by asking for help, when I need it. Knowing just how many people that I have in my life that truly care, and would be there for me, to help with whatever comes about, there is just not a chance in hell that I will ever be anything but strong. With each day, I am going to try and live my life as open and honest as I can. In doing so, I am going to have to succumb to the fact I will be sharing my faults and weaknesses. But rather than being afraid of what might come from that, I am going to believe that it will only make me stronger; by letting people know that I am vulnerable. After all, if I put it all out there, then I will know, when the time comes, the people that stick around to help, will truly know me and all of my flaws and defects and yet they will have chosen to stick around, nevertheless.
As I was researching for this post, I came across a blogger Tiny Buddha and this post. Reading her words, it seems so simple, and so obvious. I reached out to her as I wanted to have her permission to re-post her words here and provide a link, as I think there are many words of wisdom to be found within her writings.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” -Lena Horne
We often think that admitting struggle is a sign of weakness, but we all struggle sometimes. We all get overwhelmed sometimes. We all need help sometimes. Acknowledging this is not a sign of weakness, but struggling alone is a choice to grow weak.
We all need each other. No one is an island. The good news is that people really do care. Think about it. If someone you know was hurting, would you offer your support? If someone you know got into a tough situation, would you help them find a solution? You’d probably want them to come to you–to know that you care and they can trust and depend on you.
Why not give them the opportunity to do the same for you? Why push yourself to your breaking point when there are people who’d be honored to help lighten your load?
If you’re carrying more than you can handle today, choose to let some of it go by letting someone else in. You may feel vulnerable asking for help, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all learned to depend on each other?
A belated Happy Thanksgiving for those of you who celebrate. For those that don’t, I would still like to pass along the sentiment of this holiday that leaves me feeling fuzzy and warm inside…
Take a moment to really and truly think about all of the things and people you have in your life to be thankful for. Appreciate and remember each day to take the time to consciously be thankful and be sure to pass those feelings on.