We Endure: Finding Strength
Written by: Emma
Somewhere along the line I decided I was a ‘tough girl.’ I spent the better part of my life avoiding any sign of weakness emotionally. I was never afraid of being strong physically, a five-foot-ten inch height and frame of a linebacker made sure that physical strength was never a worry. I was horrified of appearing weak emotionally though.
I’d cry (a lot if I’m honest) but I was always careful to make sure that people knew “I’m not crying because I care, I just have overactive tear ducts.” I’m not even kidding when I say that this was a common phrase for me to utter and I genuinely thought that it somehow negated the fact that I was indeed crying over something. Ha!
I remember confessing to a friend in high school that I felt betrayed by my body quite often because while I felt emotionally strong I would find myself choked up or crying over things quite often. She told me something that ten years later is still something that resonates deep in my soul. She told me “Emma, you aren’t weak, you’re passionate. You feel everything tenfold and you internalize those feelings.”
My cousin died in 2013 when he was 25 years old. My family fell apart. I tried really, really hard to hold myself together, to be strong, to bottle the emotions of everything inside. I ignored the aching I felt knowing I hadn’t been at his wedding. I swallowed the guilt of the last missed phone call. I was stronger than I had ever been before.
At least that’s what I thought.
One warm summer night I spent an hour laying on my parent’s driveway staring up at the starry night sky. The vastness of space rarely comforts me and yet, like a moth to a flame, I’m constantly drawn to the abyss and I can easily lose myself in the pitch black spaces between bright stars. I laid in the dark, overwhelmingly aware of how small I was in the grand scheme of things when I was suddenly positive that I didn’t want to be strong anymore. I was ready to be done. My family was grieving, better to get it done all at once than wait till they had pulled themselves together to just not wake up the next day.
It was the one time in my life where, for a moment, I was sure I wanted to die.
I spent the night in prayer, I called my best friend, I reflected on every friend I’d lost to suicide and how much further their sphere of influence was than they could have even imagined, and I made it through that night by the grace of God. But for one night, I thought I’d rather be dead than be “strong” for one more day.
Over the next few years, I learned, on a slow trudge of self discovery and evaluation, that strength isn’t measured in lack of emotion. Strength is not defined by the person who never cries or who can stand as a lighthouse in a tumultuous sea for others to seek harbor in. Strength is being able to process emotions, to feel everything tenfold and still come through the other side. Strength is choosing to acknowledge and embrace the ugly feelings and the hard parts of life and surviving them.
Years later, I still struggle with allowing myself to appear vulnerable with others. I fight the urge to shut down and shut out people who matter to me solely because they might see a weakness. But then I remember every friend, acquaintance, and family member who has ever opened up to me and been vulnerable with me. Their vulnerability has never been something that I see as weakness. I’m always, always inspired by their courage and find myself imagining them as stronger than I could ever be.
How easy it is for me to discount my own experiences with vulnerability and assume that others see a weakness where in those same people I see pure, unadulterated strength.
I’m here today, having seen a period at the end of a sentence and chosen to make it a semicolon. I’m here today to remind you, and remind myself, that we’re not weak for being emotional, that we aren’t less for embracing hurt, lacking credibility when we cry, and most of all that being someone who can survive tragedy in its many forms is the very epitome of strength.
Each of our guest authors has submitted their own writing in order to share their story. The Sunkissed Peach is committed to creating a community in which people can be open and share honestly, in all walks of life. If you are triggered by any of these stories, I ask that you reach out to a mental health professional or counselor. If you relate or have had a similar experience, please feel free to comment and interact with the author.