I am a fighter. I believe in wrong and right, have a passion for justice, and embrace the reality that life is a fight sometimes and that fight requires courage and strength. To me, courage is getting up after every blow, brushing the dust off your back and charging forward into the battle again, hopefully a little wiser and with more knowledge than before. This is how I have lived my life as long as I can remember, and how I still will live my life. But my life has been harder than it needed to be, I’ve fought demons that no one should ever have to fight, and I’ve been on the verge of destruction and defeat, eating the dirt that I’m thrown down into as I struggle to get back up, more times than I can count. Everytime, I’ve pulled myself up and stood strong ready to fight again. This is something that I am proud of, that I never gave up.
It’s how I chose to fight back and to recover from the fight that helped me feed the idea of strength and courage that I wrapped around me each fight. It was not until tonight, after months of prayer and asking for insight into the pain and battle of the last 2 years, that I think I understand how I weakened myself in the many battles I’ve faced, not truly recovering, all in the name of strength. Disclaimer: strength and courage are forged in the fires of life’s hellish moments. I do not discount my own or other’s battles and victories in surviving. My only point is that sometimes there are other options that are still strong and courageous but that we ignore or dismiss because we’re “to strong to need help.”
You see, I’m in severe pain, all the time. I’ve had fibromyalgia since I was young and went decades before a diagnosis. After I finally got the right diagnosis and they told me what kind of drugs they wanted me to take, I said, no, I’ll find a better way. I felt the standard treatment of antidepressants and narcotics was their way of telling me that it was all in my head and I was not about that. I found other ways that were wonderful, until I chose to try and get pregnant and had to stop treatment causing a massive increase in my debilitating symptoms in addition to the pregnancy.
I continued to fight and “be strong” through the pain and my worsening mental state because that’s what you do…you deal. Because I was used to shunning help or really acknowledging the depths of my distress, I was also unable to see that I was becoming horribly depressed and anxious while I was pregnant. This time, I told myself that “it’s just hormones, I’ll feel better when I deliver,” except I didn’t.
The last two years have been spent in a deep, dark abyss of physical and emotional pain that I was not prepared for. I didn’t know that I would need other, outside interventions and help to fight this battle. I kept telling myself that I was strong enough on my own to defeat this giant, until I wasn’t. But tonight, as I sighed and gave in to taking a half dose of my prescription pain med because walking and breathing were hard, right after taking my 4th prescription antidepressent (because apparently I trained my brain to shun meds also) and found myself starting the familiar script of all the ways “giving in when I should be able to handle this” makes me weak, that the thought of, “wow, this is pride, not strength” interrupted my narrative.
I realize now, and will probably have to work to retrain my brain to understand, that sometimes strength and courage means allowing yourself to find relief from the pain, to give yourself permission to stop hurting. The physical and emotional pain of this life is inevitable, but there is nowhere that says, the only way to remember where you’ve been is to feel the pain. I don’t have to live in the dark abyss of peri and post partum depression, anxiety, paranoia, and ocd, in order for those struggles to matter. I don’t have to suck in my breath after I go for a run, pick up my son, or do normal everyday activities to remember that I have fibromyalgia. My past trauma, the emotional pain of ppd, the pain of my autoimmune disorder will always be in memory or the present. Staying in pain because I am “too strong to give in” and get help is pride. I don’t have to suffer to be alive, to feel alive, or to remember those who “have it worse.” I can choose to take care of myself and still honor my past and those who have been lost. I spent many years not believing this which cost me the chance for healing and wholeness earlier on. Pride will always get in the way of healing, but sometimes pride is hidden behind the cries of strength and courage. I am choosing to unmask my pride, embrace true strength and courage, and allow myself to be healed.