Dictionary.com defines “weakness” as a “state or quality of being weak; lack of strength, firmness or vigor, or the like; feebleness.” It also refers to weakness as “inadequate or defective,” in terms of “a person’s character.” The definition of “strength,” by contrast, can be defined in nearly fifteen different ways, as presented by Dictionary.com. It is the “the quality or state of being strong.” It also has to do with “mental power, force or vigor” and “moral power, firmness or courage.” There are many other definitions but my favorite comes from Collins English Dictionary, which defines strength as “the ability to withstand or exert great force, stress, or pressure.”
All of us, at some point in our lives, see ourselves as weak and other times, as strong. Living with two chronic pain conditions means my strength is tested on a daily basis. I am not always strong and I have been known to be weak to the point of tears. Those who struggle with the disease have learned what strength is and we have also showed others what it means to be strong. Because we show our strength to the rest of the world, and hide our weakness, we are often underestimated when we show weaknesses. It is kind of like a paradox (a situation that contradicts itself).
On my worst and most painful days, I cannot hide how much I am hurting. I do not necessarily say it or how much I am hurting but it is reflected in my mood, my conversations, my ability to get up in the morning and to work on time, and my work product. I want to tell my employers that I need to be accommodated but I fear the outcome of such a decision. I don’t want to them to see me as incapable, because once I ask for an accommodation, then I will be seen as weak. This morning, as I made in late barely able to move, I contemplated whether it was time to ask for an accommodation or just simply a little understanding. Often times, I wonder whether asking makes me better than those hundreds of people who have other chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Do I deserve an accommodation and they don’t? The fact that I fully understand that I am not better than anyone else keeps me from admitting that I am weak.
My kids think I am strong and that I am capable of everything from hanging the moon to curing a boo-boo or a tummy ache. My ten year old often tells me he wants to be strong just like me when he grows up. To him, I am strong even I feel weak because I won’t show my children my weaknesses. Nevertheless, it is not easy to feel strong when you feel like the disease is winning. Within the last few weeks, I went from having few symptoms to have this disease hitting full force. The swelling that I did not miss from a year ago has returned and along with it has come the sadness and the feelings of being weak.
I know the changes in the weather play a part but last year at this time, I was in a dark place and I do not want to go back there. My kids need me to be strong even I am so weak that I am down on my knees. I guess I can take it as an opportunity to pray for guidance and strength. I know that I am only human and to be human is to show weakness. None of us possess the ability to be strong all the time. As for me, I have to learn to come to terms with the reality of this disease because fighting with it means that I do not always win. I have learned, if anything that my conditions taught me to be strong and I have learned the hard way how to prioritize and what is most important in my life. Admitting that I am not always strong and that I can be weak means that I am ready to come to amicable terms with RA and to live with it and not against it. Feel free to wish me luck (wink-wink).