The Benefits and Downsides of Strength
When people ask me, "How do you have the strength to live with rheumatoid arthritis and disabilities?", I shrug because I know no other way.
I just must do it if I am going to live my life. I’ve described it before as a non-choice - I either find the strength to live or I do not live.
So, to me, the benefits of cultivating strength and resilience are too many to number. It’s how I live with chronic pain. It’s how I figure out how to do things with limited physical strength and mobility. It’s how I endure discrimination due to my chronic illness and disability. I must be strong enough to either endure or be run over; so, I choose to endure.
However, I am well aware of the many downsides of strength as well.
Limited patience and compassion
Sometimes I don’t have enough patience or compassion for others. I realize that since I have had to deal with so many challenges in my life (like chronic pain and physical disabilities), I don’t always have the ability to be sensitive to others.
It’s a significant flaw, as one would think I would be extra understanding. But I think because I have had to be so tough and get through so many challenges throughout my life, other people’s issues sometimes seem small in comparison, but that is not necessarily so.
When someone complains of temporary aches, I want to shout about that’s how I feel all day, every day. I have to be aware and realize that everyone experiences their pain and challenges uniquely.
I don’t tolerate nonsense very well
Living with constant pain and fatigue has made me impatient. I don’t feel like I have time and energy to deal with manufactured dramas. I don’t like it when people waste my time and energy fighting over things that don’t matter or pulling me into disagreements that I don’t care about.
I really appreciate straightforward people, thinking, and communications because, otherwise, I just don’t have the energy to deal with it. This is doubly true on days when I’m having a flare. More discomfort equals less bandwidth for nonsense.
I only have so much to strength to spare
Others needing strength flock to me, but I only have so much to spare. I feel that I project my strength and that people around me see it. They observe that I persevere through challenges and get on with life. Sometimes, people come to me because they need that kind of strength in their life, but I don’t always feel capable of providing it.
I have a limited amount and feel like I need to focus my strength and energy on what matters most to me. There are times I felt bad - like I should do more. But everyone has their limits and I need to honor mine. I want people to know that I don’t mean to discount their difficulties, but worry that I sometimes don’t convey that well.
Focusing my strength and energy on what is important to me
It makes me very focused on what I care about, so what I don’t care about gets left behind. Having a finite amount of strength means I have to concentrate on using it for what’s important to me in my life. This means using it on doing the things that matter most to me.
I have become really good at letting things go that I don’t care about, that are not priorities. I cannot worry about every little thing and make everyone else happy because then I would be left with no energy and no enjoyment. So, I focus on my family, my friends, my work, and special projects that bring me joy. The things that get left behind can be taken up by others who have the time and energy.
In my life, I have to have the strength to get through each day. I don’t know a different way to do things. I think, at times, it may make me seem cold and uncaring or really hard on other people, but it’s really a way of focusing my energy to make the most of my life.
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