Posted in Chronic illnesses, rheumatoid arthritis

Weakness vs. Strength 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 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).


6 thoughts on “Weakness vs. Strength

  1. I have often struggled with these two words: weakness and strength. This is how I deal: I remind myself that the truth is that you don't have to be either weak or strong. Just be you experiencing what you are experiencing, without judgment. Be honest and respect your feelings. Telling others how you feel isn't weakness or strength, it shows compassion. It shows that you are here now, experiencing this, and you want to connect with someone else about it to make life a little more pleasant. You don't have to collapse and sob, but you can explain that your knee hurts and you can't walk up that flight of stairs today. Nothing else will happen, you will not explode or turn into a red baboon, you'll still be you. In fact what I have found is that if others know what you are dealing with, and you are still able to live, they are even more impressed.xoxo robin

  2. I believe that recognizing limits is also a sign of strength, Lana. All of us would like to be (and be perceived) to be as strong as our strongest moments all the time, but RA and fibro make doing that impossible. Your son isn't wrong — you are incredibly strong. But strength not only has many definitions, it also has many faces and variations of degree. Recognizing your limits, accepting them and making adequate accomodations for them within your circumstances may well keep you from re-entering that "dark place" from the recent past you so fear.Thank you for the thoughtful and informative post. You may not be as physically strong as you'd like to be, but there isn't a thing wrong with your brainpower. Bravo.

  3. I love this post and now it is more true for me than ever because I have to find ways of managing pain without medication!!! AHHH!!! HOW? I don't know. Still struggling. I will be superwoman by the time this baby comes for sure. Either that or I will be dead. 🙂

  4. Robin, thank you for adding a positive light to this topic. Strength and weakness is something that we chronic illness/pain sufferers have in common. It is not easy, but we can demonstrate strength that would even make the toughest of tough impressed.Wren – As always, thank you for reminding me that even when I feel my weakest, I can still be strong. Pain and illness – they put us in a dark place but I think that experience teaches us how to find the light at the end of the tunnel. In recent days, I have learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and for that, I am grateful. Rachel, I am glad that that many people can relate. Bravo to you for dealing with every thing you deal with, your children, your pregnancy and life, in general. I believe that mothers are the strongest people on earth. You will surprise yourself with your strength – just remember to make use of your support system when the baby comes so that the first few couple months after having the baby are easy.

  5. We have probably all surprised ourselves at the inner strength we have to keep fighting this day after day. In terms of physical strength, I feel about as weak as I have ever been, but mentally I am fighting a giant everyday. It's so great how, to your kids, you are ten feet tall and bullet proof. If that were only the case!I have been working the last few days, I hope you are feeling better by the time you see this comment. Good luck.

  6. Thanks Terry. I am starting to feel better. The weather fluctuations do not really help. Sometimes, the pain makes it hard to keep going but we do. Today, my toddler was being all clingy in the grocery store and it was really hard to carry him but I had to and I did.

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