Exhausted By Strength

Last updated: August 2022

"I dream of never being called resilient again in my life. I'm exhausted by strength. I want support. I want softness. I want ease. I want to be amongst kin. Not patted on the back for how well I take a hit. Or for how many."
--Zandashé L'Orelia Brown

The constant need to be strong

I really love this quote. I found it recently when someone posted it on social media, and I immediately took a screenshot and saved it to my phone. There are an overwhelming amount of posts on social media, Instagram especially, that are meant to be inspirational or philosophical or deal with matters of the mind, heart, and soul.

They're all over the place, which can sometimes be quite annoying, but this one leaped out at me as soon as I read it. It resonates with me so much and is the first time I've seen someone write about strength and resilience in this way. Reading it, I thought, "YES! Yes, this is me. I am exhausted by strength."

Resilience is exhausting

It seems like so many people--writers, speakers, teachers, leaders, activists, family, friends--are constantly hammering the message to be resilient and strong onto our smartphone screens and into our brains. Especially if you struggle with a chronic illness, such as RA, those messages become more about congratulating us for being resilient and strong and taking the "hits" in life that chronic diseases can throw at people.

While I absolutely do appreciate being recognized for being resilient and strong from dealing with the countless struggles and obstacles that chronic illness and chronic pain bring into my life, at the same time I'm very tired of having to be resilient in the first place.

I just want a break

Like Brown says in her quote, I also want support, softness, and ease. It's impossible to express just how deeply exhausted I am, physically and emotionally, from living with the pain and sickness of RA every day since August 1996. That's a very long time to have to be strong and get hit with so many painful things that RA causes. This disease is unpredictable and relentless. It's cruel, and I feel like it's constantly stalking me. I'm always on edge and on guard one way or another, because I never know when my RA will flare-up and strike extra hard. When it comes down to it, I just want a break.

RA is a full-time job

Living with RA for so long has not been easy. It's been the complete opposite. It's brutally hard living with this disease. I feel like I'm constantly getting hit with something: flare-ups, bursitis, fibromyalgia, severe tension headaches, TMJ, anxiety, depression, frustration, disappointment, grief, regret, anger, medication side effects, self-esteem issues, low-grade fevers, joint damage, physical appearance changes, loss, isolation, longing, relationship issues, workplace challenges, and the list goes on and on.

Having and managing a chronic illness is a full-time job, and unfortunately, it doesn't pay.

Dreaming of life without chronic illness

I know I'm being repetitive, but I can't say it enough: LIVING WITH RA IS EXHAUSTING. So, so exhausting. There have been times when I've thought, "What would it be like to have just one day not having this disease? Just one day to feel like I did when I was a teenager before I got RA? What would it feel like to not have physical pain?" I would love and give anything to be able to take off this heavy weight of chronic pain that's been crushing my back and shoulders for over 20 years. What would softness and ease feel like? Wonderful, I imagine.

I'm sure I'm not alone in having these feelings and wanting to have a break from the pain and illness of RA. Never again being called "resilient" and "strong" because of my disease would be a much-welcomed and needed change. I'm tired of being strong for all of these years. I want to have the luxury again of life being easy--or easier, at least.

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