What Is Strength?

Kelly recently wrote an article titled, The Benefits and Downsides of Strength, and it inspired me to think about my definition of strength. I’ve written on the loss of my physical strength numerous times, but I don’t know that I’ve specifically talked about mental strength before.

I started to wonder how I live with rheumatoid arthritis. Is it because I’m tough? I didn’t magically prepare for this twist in life nor did I feel stronger because of it.

Why do people think I'm strong?

People often say, “you’re so strong to have gone through everything you have been through (sometimes referencing my age, but that’s a whole other beast of burden)," but I don’t know whether that speaks to my strength or theirs.

When I was diagnosed with RA I didn’t sit on the edge of my bed, fighting through tears and telling myself I had to be strong to get through this. Everyone has something they live through and RA so happens to be mine. The people who say this cannot imagine living with a chronic illness, so maybe they’re commenting on their own ability to navigate something different than what they’ve already experienced.

I don't want to share my strength

Kelly mentioned many people rely on her personal strength when they need some for themselves and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. Maybe people consider strength an emotion or a state that is infinite and maybe it is, but it certainly does not emerge freely from the fountain of power. Excuse me, but I need my strength for my own darn problems. You just mentioned that I’m so strong, well here’s your chance to get some strength for yourself. I don’t want to share. I need it to face today, tomorrow and the day after that until I die.

Courage isn't one-size-fits-all

I definitely contradicted myself a bit here, but just like pain, I don’t know that I can define strength. We all face something in our lives. Everyone feels differently about certain situations. Something that I might find minor may be a big deal to someone else. For me personally, I don’t muster up the courage to continue, I just do. I go to work, I fight through flares, and I study. If I have to, I curl up in a ball, fall asleep, and take a rest day. It’s not because I don’t have the strength to keep going, I just need to do what I need to do.

Living with RA isn't easy

Maybe there is an element of strength? Every day we get up and fight through the symptoms and the uncertainty. Every day we move when our joints are red-hot and we navigate a new health concern. Spoonies are strong because we are, but maybe not because we have to be.

What do you think? Do you think strength is a definitive resource that we call upon as spoonies or is it just something that comes with the territory of chronic illnesses? Let me know your definition of strength in the comments!

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