CONFESSION: MY FRAGILE SHELL IS ABOUT TO BREAK
September 7, 2017 | Posted in: Caregivers
You think I’m strong. You think I’m brave. You think that I can weather any storm. Life’s thrown me some pretty tough curve balls, and from your perspective, I’ve knocked them out of the park. You see me smile despite heartache, and you watch me push forward while the ground collapses underneath. You hear me laugh when I should cry, and you know that I find light through the darkness. You think I’m invincible.
But I view myself differently. I see a lot of weakness. I see frailty, fragility, and debilitating fear. From my perspective, I’ve been knocked out by many curve balls and barely dodged others. I see my pillows drenched in tears and my fists clenched with stress. I hear myself sobbing in the shower and shouting in empty parking lots. I feel defeated.
Then I pull myself together. I wipe away the tears, take some deep breaths, and focus on the tasks at hand. You think this makes me strong, like metal tempered and refined with heat. I think this makes me fragile, like an egg ready to crack with one wrong tap. You see a rock, firm and unbreakable. I see a sandcastle, soon to be destroyed by the wind and waves. Click To Tweet I am scared.
I know I can be beaten, and many days I feel like I already am. I tread lightly, knowing that I’m always one bad situation away from an emotional outburst. The simplest thing can be the final straw to break my back. One rude comment from a stranger, one friend who isn’t there, or one surprise complication to add extra stress. I should brush it off, but instead I break down. I lift too many heavy weights to carry any of the light ones. I live in dread of bad news. You think I can handle anything, but the truth is I can’t. Click To Tweet One more weight piled on will shatter my hard surface. I feel myself crumbling.
Then something happens. Another weight comes, and I lose all strength as expected. I sob and scream. I pound my fists and pull out my hair. I cry until my eyes are drained and my face is saturated. My shell breaks, and I ooze with vulnerability. I can’t hide it anymore. You see this mess? I’m not as strong as you thought.
Or am I?
Maybe strength doesn’t mean keeping a straight face and a stiff upper lip. Maybe strength and emotions can co-exist. Maybe the tears reflect my resilience and the yells echo my endurance. Maybe the feelings that overwhelm me also drive me forward. Maybe breaking my shell isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe the inside is beautiful, powerful, and kind. Maybe my passion leads to compassion. Maybe I was always as strong as you knew.
I am facing difficulties right now. The stress, fear, and sadness probably won’t leave soon. I stand one step away from a breakdown, and sometimes I am pushed over the edge. Please keep believing in me. Please keep knowing that I am strong. And please keep reminding me that I can express deep emotions and exhibit deep strength at the same time.
Because maybe we are both right. Maybe I am fragile. Maybe I am emotional. And maybe I am strong.
Julieann Selden is a graduate student, mom, blogger, and nonprofit volunteer. Her husband was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer in February 2016. On her blog, contemplatingcancer.com, she examines the thoughts and emotions of life through the lens of an aggressive cancer diagnosis.
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