What brought me to this saying is a mystery, lost to the years of depression and mania. Lost to the medications. Lost to my desire to hide from my illness once I reached "recovery." I was going to college when this saying entered my life. By going to college, I mean living in a dorm room and occasionally finding the courage to show my face in class. The depression was overwhelming and I was lost in it. Fighting the feeling that someone was following me, being crushed by the weight of it all.
Maybe someone said it before me, but I choose to claim it's creation. I know it's origin in my life comes from the Bible. From 2 Corinthians 12:10: "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
It feels weird to quote the Bible in my blog. However at that point in my life my faith was my driving force. My faith is what kept me alive and what brought me to this saying. This saying that I repeated to myself for years and years and then lost when things started to get better. This saying that I reminded myself of when I wanted to hide my struggles, when I wanted to be invisible. When I was fighting to keep a grasp on reality. When I was fighting the depression.
When I was struggling to stay alive.
Flash Forward to last winter, eleven years after I was "going" to college, eight years after my last hospitalization, who knows how many years after I had needed to rely on that saying like a life raft. A small piece of hope in the midst of despair. I randomly listened to the insanely amazing TED Talk by superstar researcher storyteller Brene Brown. I cried. I didn't ugly cry because I have too much pride/fear/something to let myself actually break down very often. But I cried. And then immediately e-mailed my wife and my therapist. I had stumbled upon someone who spoke to the very core of me.
I was ashamed.
I still am. I fight it, and now I have words and a way to look at it that helps me rail against the shame monster. I am terrified people will know about my past. Will hear my diagnosis. Will have issues with my gender presentation. Will know that I am queer.
I am terrified that people will see me and run the other way.
Honestly, I can make a list of those who have. There are family members and formerly close friends included. But that is a very short list when you get down to it. The list of those who have loved me and held me through the dark years and who love me and are excited for me is massive.
Vulnerability combats shame
To fight against shame, one must stand in front of it, and let down their guard. To be seen one must allow themselves to be open enough that someone else CAN see them.
And so I come full circle.
I'm no longer fighting to stay alive. I'm finally starting to come out of survival mode. Every day is no longer a struggle. This is really weird and hard for me.
I value Strength.
I lift weights so my body will be strong. I work hard because I want to be seen as a strong employee. Strength is important to me.
To be strong we must first be weak.
We must allow ourselves to be seen. We must be honest about our struggles and acknowledge that we might be turned away. Or dismissed. Or laughed at. We have to put ourselves out there and know that things might burn up in flames. But maybe that bonfire will be the best thing that happened to us.
I am terrified.
Like, sweaty palms, heart racing, what the HELL am I doing terrified. What do I think I'm doing? Who am I to try and do something with my life. I'm just a punk ass queer from the middle of nowhere Missouri.
But maybe being who we are is the strongest most powerful thing we can do.
Maybe we need to chase authenticity.
Maybe we need to be weak, especially because we want to be strong.
Are you willing to try and find strength through vulnerability?