I often wonder how strong I really am. I don’t mean physically. I know I am not strong physically. I am talking mentally and emotionally. Seems over the years I have resorted to various unhealthy forms of coping when life seemed overwhelming. That would suggest that I am not strong and have certain weaknesses.
Most of us have become Covid weary and been that way for months. Now with Christmas approaching and news that restrictions will be in place into the new year dashing hopes of getting together with others, that weariness increases.
We have all heard that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I often have serious questions about that. At first blush it makes sense. After all we all have challenges in life. We have experiences that we would rather not have. Many of us have experienced some type of trauma. And, often times, we learn from these experiences, we grow, we do become stronger. But not always.
I am not convinced that all of life events make us stronger. Some events, some experiences, some trauma will test the very core of our strength and will leave us weakened. And when we get knee-capped by something that weakens us we must find ways to recover and heal, understanding that we may never reattain our former strength.
I chatted recently with an elderly lady who has shown amazing strength and resilience through adversity and pain. As we addressed her latest challenge, I made a comment about that strength. She looked at me with a weary gaze and said she was getting tired of being strong. Ongoing challenges, pain, and frustration had left her tired.
So whether we experience something that leaves us vulnerable or whether ongoing adversity leaves us weary the challenge is to be aware. Be aware of changes to your body, to your mind and to your emotions. Be aware when life is challenging you. Recognize the symptoms.
The following poem is one that has encouraged me in difficult times. I have committed it to memory and will often recite it to myself. It was written by John Greenleaf Whittier who was an advocate for the abolition of slavery in the 1800’s. He experienced his own journey with mental illness. Hopefully it can encourage you as well. Make it a good one.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit –
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
John Greenleaf Whittier