Being strong sucks. I am strong by choice, not by necessity. I am strong because I don’t know what weakness feels like and I’m too much of a coward to find out. I’m strong because I’m stubborn. Failure in any form, has never been an option for me. I’m a Phoenix because the fire within me keeps me going–even if I have to burn for it. Being strong sucks. Because it means that when I am tired–like I am right now–I can’t just give up. So it means that I have still have to somehow figure out a way to make it work. I still have to put on this facade–I have to wear a mask. Otherwise, people around me get uncomfortable and treat me differently.
People think that they know me because they see the me that gets stuff done and the me that doesn’t back down. But, I’m tired, ya’ll. It’s October and all this ridiculous stuff has happened on top of it being October. I’m buckling. The Phoenix has 5 phases (birth, burn, ashes, rebirth, flight) and I’m stuck on Burn right now. Maybe even close to ashes. Being strong sucks. Because it means that no one asks how you’re doing–they think I’m good because I seem to have a handle on things. I’m too stubborn to ask for help because I don’t even know how how to help myself.
Being strong sucks because it means that every time something sets me off, I think about everything bad that has ever happened in my life. I get triggered daily but somehow breathe it out. But right now, nothing helps. I just want to sleep. And cry. And eat. Being strong sucks because people think that I’m not battling the ghosts of depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Well, I am. I am not ashamed. I refuse to be. I’m proud because I manage just fine on my own. I am the Phoenix–always have been. I always tell myself that everything happens for a reason and that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. This struggle has to mean something. It can’t last forever.
I’m always putting other people before myself–even people I can’t stand. Because no matter how bad things are for me, I know there is someone out there going through worse. I’m always concerned about someone else’s well-being but what I’ve come to realize is that there are few people in my life that give a damn about mine. Being strong sucks because people take advantage and act like I’m Capt’n Save ‘Em. Who’s gonna save the hero?
Being strong sucks because I have to hide a major part of who I am. Although I am not defined by my diagnoses, PTSD has shaped how I look and feel about the world and the people in it. People think that I’m just some big jerk who doesn’t like to shake hands or hang out in groups. When in reality, there are reasons why I am the way that I am and why I do the things I do, the way I choose to do them. Everything serves a purpose. This is how I stay strong.
Being strong sucks because people think that anxiety and depression (any mental illness, really) is a cop-out. It’s not. My feelings are valid–I am valid. For those of us who struggle alone internally, minimizing our feelings only makes us feel worse. But I also don’t need to be fixed. I’m not broken or damaged. I’m just built differently. I have chosen to think of my armor as an eternal bird capable of rebirth because it keeps me going. I have literally been through Hell and I’m still here. I’ve been in and out of therapy for the better part of 10 years. I’ve tried meds and I know that they work for most people, but they just didn’t work for me. My armor isn’t built for them. In my experience as a young black woman, I find mental illness to be taboo. In my culture, mental illness is dismissed, minimized, or I have been told that I should stop worrying so much. But it’s not that easy.
Being strong just sucks.