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When Taking Care of Your Mental Health Means Redefining 'Strong'

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One of the most difficult things for me, an “independent” woman, is to decide when to quit. I have this idea in my head about how a strong woman is supposed to look, act and be, and quitting is not part of that description. ‘Cause momma didn’t raise a quitter.

So my days will go by in haze, filled with ideas of, “I have to do this assignment. I just cannot fail.” For some reason, I am afraid of failing, failing my honors year or failing the subject I am currently trying to push through.

Ignoring the warning signs, I can feel that something’s not right. You know, that weird feeling inside of you, like darkness covering your rationality. The heavy breathing, the tears welling up and the “I am a failure” feeling?

This is the moment where I look down at my arms. I can literally see the scars from previous situations when I didn’t listen to my body. Still, the question lingers. How should I tell my lecturer, yet again, that I couldn’t keep up? I failed.

But did I really fail?

Why do we have this sick idea in our heads that quitting means we’re failing at life. At times, quitting is the best you can do for yourself. It does not mean you’re quitting life. Actually, it’s the opposite of quitting life. Realizing that I, or anyone else reading this, just cannot deal with the stress and anxiety university is putting on us, takes guts. It does not mean that we’re never going to finish. I know for a fact I will be OK in the workplace, if I allow myself the opportunity to heal.

I am tired of trying to prove to everyone I am OK. I am tired of this mask I have to wear to feel accepted. To feel less like a failure. I am not OK. And that’s OK. I am not supposed to be OK when what’s in my head isn’t doing its job.

Screw that idea of being a strong woman. I am redefining what it means to be a strong woman. I am a strong woman. I am going to listen to my body and mind. I am going to quit before I decide to quit life. My life and your life, your mental and physical health are more important than any degree.

I choose life. I choose myself. I choose to accept I am not a failure. If you think I am a failure because I can’t work the same as I used to, so be it. Shame on you. Choosing life, choosing not to harm yourself and choosing to take care of yourself, that’s a strong woman. I am quitting for now because I have to.

There is always a second chance to do something. Quitting doesn’t make me any less of a strong woman. Stand tall. Take care of yourself.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: December 30, 2016
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