I consider myself a strong woman. I am strong in my convictions and I have strength of character, spirit, mind and body. I honestly believe that if you have strength it is something admirable but I also think having a chronic illness makes strength a disadvantage.
Chronic illness has had its effects on me and as the fall and winter months approach, I know that I will not be moving like a “healthy” person for long. I feel that I am physically strong considering all I do despite the pain that I move with daily. And to the outside world, I look fine but I don’t always feel fine.
While I don’t have a handicap tag for my car, sometimes I feel like I probably need one but I feel the looks from people who don’t think I “look” sick discourage me from getting one. I don’t blame them for that because looking in the mirror, I see the same thing. But people don’t know or understand that I am in pain. They don’t see it because I am not necessarily limping or hunched over or using an assistive device, but I am in pain and I am tired and I ache every day. Between the pain from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and pain from neck and back injuries from an auto accident, my pain levels are constantly changing. Some days, I am at a 2 and other times, I am at a 10 but I am never not in pain.
I understand better than anyone that I am sick but I am strong enough to carry myself with a mindset that is resilient – both emotionally and physically. I am proud of myself for my strength and I am smart enough to know that also means taking care of myself. Although, I find that the strength that I display strength can force others to see me as happy or healthy and that is not always the case. I struggle but I struggle mostly with showing that I am NOT struggling. In all fairness, I don’t want people to feel sorry for me but I don’t necessarily think their perception of me and how I physically and emotionally feel is honest. People don’t ask how I feel, or how I am doing or if I need anything because they think I am handling myself just fine. This is where my strength are to my determent. If anything, it can be frustrating scenario.
I am a self-sufficient person and sometimes I am fine but sometimes I want to be asked how I am doing or I want someone to offer to help. I struggle because I don’t want to be seen as weak or a burden on anyway. Most of time, people forget to ask if I need help because I appear so strong and I have no room to complain because it is mostly my fault. I don’t like to ask for help and I hate not being strong. On that hand, I don’t see needing help as weakness in people and I am always the first to jump to help others. I just need to stop telling myself that I can do it all and I need to stop seeing that my needing help is a weakness in me.
Strength is a constant battle for me. It is a daily battle just to stay strong when it feels like your body is constantly rebelling against you. I am proud that I am strong and that I am independent but I just sometimes wish that people understand that my looking fine doesn’t mean I feel fine.