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To Those Who Expect Me to Be Strong All the Time as I Live With Chronic Illness

“You’re my hero.”

“You’re amazing.”

“You’re so strong!”

(These statements can also be replaced with words like courageous, or brave.)

I hear these things a lot and I know these are all positive characteristics. These are character traits that bring meaning and purpose to my struggles. Though, sometimes I wish that I could just be me. When I’m this girl who is amazing, strong and someone’s hero, it can get lonely and suffocating. Sometimes I just need to be. I need to be the traumatized girl, the girl with a less than perfect or healthy body. Not to be depressing or depressed, but to be true to the part of me that feels broken and needs a good cry once in a while. To be honest I don’t know what I’m doing some days, I don’t know how I made it this far in life or what I’m doing with my life. Sometimes I merely just exist and long for a relationship so meaningful that I feel safe breaking down my defense and crying on someone’s shoulder. I don’t like crying in front of others.

I’m walking on sunshine, and drowning at sea. I’m trying to live in the present while my thoughts and mind are caught between terrible flashbacks from trauma, and anxiety about my future from the medical standpoint. I’m not so fragile that I’ll break and be unable to mend, but I do break sometimes and I need someone to understand that.

It’s always a joy to watch others reach their dreams, and get so much more out of life than they ever dreamed about. Sometimes I just need someone to let me be complete. I’m tired of being in pain and hiding it because people don’t want to see my pain, they want to see my smile.

So to those listening. Please, let me be more than just your hero. Get rid of whatever expectations you may have of me being this amazing, strong woman because I also need to be broken. I want to feel safe expressing my pain and fears with those I love because life with chronic illness and trauma is not always filled with sunshine and roses. I may well be strong, but underneath it all I’m still human, I’m broken, but I’m not always going to be broken into a million tiny pieces, sometimes it will just be a small crack in my armor. Please let me be the girl who needs to cry but wants to laugh, the girl who uses sarcasm as a coping mechanism. Let me be happy and sad, anxious and depressed, broken and whole, let me be sarcastic and cheerful.

I have survived all kinds of trauma from a car accident to abuse and assault (both physical and sexual). I live with a body riddled with chronic illness from a paralyzed stomach, to a hole in my heart, and even a brain that is literally too big and falling out! I might be superwoman, or the incredible hulk, but I’m also human. I’m going to break just like any other normal human being, and that should be OK. I shouldn’t need to be strong all the time to be amazing. Being the girl others see in me isn’t always easy, because I’m not superwoman, I’m a broken girl determined to succeed in this life.

I hope that through time I can put the pieces of my puzzle together to see how beautiful it really is but I need to do it my way with the support of those who love and care about me. Don’t give up on me and please try and see the scared, broken woman sometimes because she needs love and acceptance just as the girl you see needs encouragement.

Photo by Amadeo Muslimović on Unsplash