What Being Strong Means to Me
*Trigger Warning. Suicide and Mental Illness.
Strong. Strong is not a word I would normally use to describe myself. Yet, there it is…written on my mannequin prop from a recent body positive shoot. Even now, as I sit here writing this, I am not sure I am strong enough to tell my tale, but here it goes.
A little over a week ago, I attended a body positive photoshoot in Pittsburgh put together by Luscious D. We were told that we would be decorating mannequins and taking photos with them. We were to think of a word or words to describe us or to mean something about us. For days, I thought about what mine would say, and I came up blank every time. It wasn’t until late the night before the shoot while posting on Instagram that I finally realized the word was “Strong.”
The past five years have been some of the hardest years of my life. In the past five years, I have lost two pregnancies, had a baby, moved, lost our old home, had to let go of my old business, and ended up having a slew of medical problems. On top of the medical problems, I deal with anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Out of the past few years, this past year has probably been the worst for me.
In 2017, I started trying to get my life together and try some new things. I thought I was finally starting to get better, and then that spring, I had a weird episode, and I haven’t been the same since. I had one other one three years ago like it. I had stroke like symptoms, but it wasn’t a stroke. I came to find out that a lot of it is related to things from an accident from years ago, but I also have some issues going on unrelated too. As I went from dr. to dr. trying to get everything sorted, I started sinking further and further into depression. I think something in me just snapped. I had been trying to hang on for so long, and having my health fall apart without being able to get answers, seeing all my dreams for the future starting to die just broke me.
I started distancing myself a lot from many of my friends. Some of my friends and family had distanced themselves from me, and it hurt, so I just wanted to shield myself from any more hurt, not to mention I could not focus or concentrate very well anyways. I couldn’t help but keep thinking the world would be better off without me. I hated that my husband was now having to take care of me when he would get off work. I sometimes had days where I was just too tired to do a lot. My son broke down one night because he was scared I was going to die. I hated all of it. I had tried to go to a therapist, but thanks to a mix up with my insurance, I lost my insurance briefly, and the office refused to let me make appointments until it was fixed. After it was fixed, they just wouldn’t return my calls, and by that point, I just didn’t care anymore.
I found myself self harming again, something I never thought I would ever do again. I hadn’t done it since I was a teenager. Even when I was at my lowest after losing the babies, I never cut myself. I attempted suicide once after my losses, but I didn’t cut myself. I was at a point where I just wanted to feel something again, something other than feeling like my existence was a mistake.
I wanted to die. I felt like I got cheated with life. I had such big plans for my life, and instead, I had a chronic illness making me feel weak, forgetful, and tired. I loved my family, but I felt that all of this was causing them pain, and that they would be better off if I was just gone.
This summer, I have done more than I have done in the past few years. I am finally getting answers and treatment for everything. However, I still have my low moments, and in those low moments, I have to tell myself to keep going. I have to remind myself that I do have people that love me, and that I am getting better, even if it is slow. Sometimes it is so hard. It is so hard to see that because I feel so desperate to live my dreams and do all the things I want to do in life, but I am still going.
That is strength. Getting up in the morning when your world looks like a dumpster fire is strength. Getting a shower when you don’t give a shit is strength. Each day that I keep going is showing that I have strength to get through this, even though I feel weak…even though I feel broken.
I am sharing this with all of you, not because I want your pity but because I want you to know that the battle is real. Wanting to end it all isn’t about being selfish and choosing a permanent solution for a temporary problem. It is being so broken that you can’t see a way out. It is losing the strength to continue the battle.
I am sharing this for those who have been in my shoes to say that when it does not feel you have strength, there is strength in those small things, and we need to take things in small steps. I am sharing this for those of you that have loved ones that are in my shoes or were and weren’t strong enough to keep fighting.
This is probably one of the hardest things I have ever written, but if it helps just one person, then it is worth it. I am hoping that I can keep being strong. I love my family and friends. I know that there is hope, but sometimes, it is so hard to see all of that when I am in a lot of pain. For those of you who have been there for me through it all, you have no idea how much that has meant to me. Thank you.