Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Strength is a trait that I admire and have made a conscious effort to not just display but exude. My past was unnecessarily painful and that pain was complicated by a decision to keep it secret. As I got older, what I felt became harder to ignore. Instead of sitting dormant, that pain gathered power and threatened to direct me toward an unhealthy lifestyle. Though I didn't gravitate toward abusing substances or relationships, my numbing agent of choice was just as detrimental. I turned all of that hurt, confusion, shame, and anger on myself. It felt safer to unleash that negativity internally rather than set it free. Yet that false safety existed only because it was what I was accustomed to doing—I'd learned it from others and became quite skilled at it.

I told my story, but not honestly. I told the narrative, but not how I was impacted. I didn't want others to know the truth—that my pain was not past, but very present. I remained dumbfounded at the mere thought of what I experienced. I was debilitated at times by the weight of it. The memories had such a hold on my heart that at times I couldn't breathe. It was so incredible that my goal became to prevent myself from feeling. As soon as that darkness threatened to hold me, I ran. I ran to a book. I ran to another city. I ran to the nearest distraction that I could because I was terrified that sitting with it would drown me. I feared that if I fully felt it I would never ever recover.

Hearing others tell me that I was strong went from encouraging to disheartening. I felt like a fraud. Those calling me strong never saw me running from a memory, stuck in a flashback, or in tears because of a news story or television show that was too familiar. In my corrupted mind, strength was found in not feeling so my goal, though unrealistic and undesirable, became not to feel.

Strength is found in fighting and feeling, not in fighting feeling. Strength is what you develop when you are honest about what makes you feel less than strong and do the work needed to make progress. Turning unexpressed feelings on yourself, feelings of guilt, shame, weakness, despair, and hopelessness is detrimental and can make wholeness seem impossible. Fortunately, wholeness is not impossible and strength is not elusive. Quite simply, the way to develop strength is to be strong.

Stand up today and agree to keep standing. Strength is not determined by the number of days you feel less than strong, it is determined by what you do when you have those feelings and the decision you make to continue to stand. Body builders develop strength by lifting weights. Similarly, you develop emotional strength by working through, not ignoring, the weight of your past and using it to build you up instead of allowing the fear of feeling to build up inside of you. Everything you need to be strong already exists and it all exists within you.

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