All these years, I have only been "playing at" being strong. I know what strength is supposed to look like, and sound like, and act like and so I did those things. I woke up every day and got dressed. I took yoga classes and meditated to be "at peace." I tried new foods, new meds, new hobbies, new doctors and even made some new friends. I only cried when I had no other choice but to let the tears fall and very few people ever heard me say I wanted to give up. I've had people tell me time and time again how "strong" I've been to be able to handle it all. But the truth is, I was merely being complacent.
You see, it got to the point where the pain and the suffering, and the diseases and the stress became a part of me. Something I accepted as normal and permanent. Dictionary.com defines complacency as: "a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition," That. Wasn't. Strength.
I see it like this: Imagine you have to move a heavy box of books from one end of the house to the other and you don't have a dolly. You can do one of three things, push the box of books, pull the box of books, or try and pick it up and carry it. True physical strength would come from carrying it, maybe even pulling it (though that's more like dragging it around). Me? I was slowly kicking the damn thing forward with whatever little bit of energy I had in my legs, while often sitting on the box and taking cynical breaks while others tried to cheer me on. I am a pusher. I pushed my pain and my burdens forward because that's what was safe. It was easier that way. It was secure. No matter how many more books (problems) got put inside my already heavy ass box, I just shrugged and kept kicking it forward. There was no strength in that, it was like "meh, as long as I can push or kick it forward, I'm good. Bring on the books! If I can't push it anymore one day, I'll just sit on it and read the books." That is no way to live, because if you can't get the box to the other end of the house, you'll never build your library. This is no way to live.
The other day, a kind and caring doctor gave me the strength I needed to pick up the box and carry it across the house. She treated me like a person. For the first time I felt heard. (Don't get me wrong, my rheumatologist and nephrologist are GREAT...when it comes to my scleroderma and lupus...but NO ONE has bothered to listen to me regarding my vagina, ovaries, uterus and other lady parts) I don't know why it's mattered so much to me that SOMEONE take me seriously and actually listen to me regarding that particular part of my body, but it felt so empowering and liberating to know that steps were being taken to try and find out what is wrong.
The first thing she said to me was "let's pretend you're normal, you don't have any of these other things going on and try to fix this." In that moment, it felt like I could bench press the damn box. While she knew that my illnesses could possibly be causing what's wrong, she didn't focus on that. She didn't focus on what was already broken. Instead, she saw me as whole, and wanted to zero in on this problem instead of blaming the other problems and dismissing me.
It's a weird dynamic that you may only understand if you're chronically ill. But to be treated like a normal healthy human being by a DOCTOR is a rare thing. People might say "you shouldn't have to wait for someone ELSE to make you feel strong"... well clearly those people haven't dealt with the medical industry. As a patient, I can't schedule my own MRIs or blood tests or X-Rays, I need a doctor's referral to do that, and if no one is willing to listen to you and be proactive, then you are left helpless and dis-empowered. It's how I've felt 90% of the time over the last 8 years.
This doctor gave me my power back. I cried all the way to my car and all the way home simply because I finally felt hopeful. Simply because I knew I no longer had to "play at being strong" but had finally been given the strength to carry the burden.