Strength

I am strong.

My strength has gotten me through life, and allowed me to continue beating impossible odds.

My strength allowed me to get through my childhood, broken but still alive.

My strength got me to get out of bed every morning, even when I knew the day would inevitably bring meĀ  pain.

My strength carried me through to the day I finally escaped — the day that I needed all of the strength in the world to bring me to freedom.

Strength helped me walk away, run away, far away.

And my strength helps me still today, as I continue to choose to live rather than to die.

I’m not sure where my strength came from. Is it something inside me? Is it in my heart or in my head? Or does it flow through my body like a life force within me? I don’t know where it came from, or even where it is right now. But I know it’s there, helping me fight, helping me stand up when it is so much easier to just lay down and concede.

I share this strength with others every day. I share my story with the world; the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. Because my strength isn’t always so easy to see. But they can see it, sometimes more than I can see it myself. When I feel weak, I am reminded of the strength it took for me to get away. Incredible strength, that not everyone has, but I have it. I always had it. And now my strength gives others hope that they can be strong, too — that they can survive even when it seems impossible.

I used to hate the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because I believed my experiences showed weakness, not strength. I was standing, breathing, bleeding, but I was dead inside. That wasn’t strength. Strong people don’t feel the way I felt for so long. Strong people don’t feel at all.

But I was strong. My experiences may have knocked me down, but they did not kill me. They made me come back to life stronger than ever, with a will to live and the ability to share that will with the world, to change lives for the better.

My strength gives me hope, even when everything seems hopeless.

Strength is not about winning the battle. It’s about fighting, even when the odds are against you.

I wrote this in group today. I’m not even sure where it came from. I stared at the paper for a while before I even started to write, completely at a loss for words.

What specific attribute, quality, or skill distinguishes you from everyone else? How did you come to develop it? What positive things has it brought to your life? How are you able to share it with others?

What distinguishes me? Nothing. My thoughts automatically went to thinking that I was less than human. Unworthy. How could an unworthy person have anything special about them?

After 10 minutes or so, I started to think of things other people told me about me. I recalled many people speaking of my strength. Oddly, in those moments, I never saw myself as strong. I’d nod my head in agreement, yet inside my head, I was discrediting everything they were saying. I struggle with accepting positive things because I became so accustomed to hearing the negative that positive seems like a foreign concept to me.

I wrote down I am strong. Then it was like something clicked in me. I kept on writing without even thinking of what was coming out on paper. And I ended up with this.

Even after it was done, part of me wanted to rip it up. It doesn’t make any sense. No one will understand this. It’s horrible. I hesitated sharing it with the group because I believed the same thoughts I was having in my head were thoughts that they were going to have as well. Part of me was ashamed.

But I tried to stop the judgments. I took a breath and read it out loud. Even as my voice trembled and my legs and hands shook from anxiety, I read it through until the end. There was something different about reading the words out loud. I wanted to cry, but I held it in. This was my truth, spoken out loud. I made myself vulnerable. I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to share.

But I did, and that alone is an example of strength.

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499

I have some things for you from your mother.

He said it like it was nothing. He didn’t know it wasn’t nothing to me.

I wasn’t expecting it. I was having a regular conversation (over text) with my friend about something I wanted to do and out of the blue, he mentioned this. I froze for a minute, both physically and emotionally. I was numb. You could have stabbed me in both hands with a steak knife and I would have stayed sitting where I was, staring blankly at the wall, never flinching.

Then the emotions rushed in. I couldn’t tell if I was angry, sad, or both. I asked my friend what it was. It’s a letter, and some other things. At that point, I didn’t care about the other things. My thoughts danced around the letter.

I felt myself being swept away by hope. My mother is finally apologizing. She is finally going to say how sorry she is, how she never meant to hurt me. She is going to tell me how much she misses me, how much she loves me and has always loved me. She’s going to say she wants me back, that we are family. She is sorry and she loves and cares for me.

I sensed the joy of younger me, the excitement over the wish of family and of love coming true.

But I was crying, because adult me knew that those wishes were not coming true. This letter was not going to be one of love and caring. It was not going to be a letter of acknowledgement or apology.

My heart is breaking again. I am torn between the wish and the reality, the hope and the truth. Part of me wants to see that letter, to read my mother’s words, because there is still a small wish, a flickering of hope that my mother would be what I need her to be: a mother.

But then part of me knows that what I hope and wish for will not be fulfilled in that letter. Part of me knows that my mother will never apologize, that she will never be sorry for what she’s done because she believes she has done no wrong. Part of me knows that my mother doesn’t miss me, because she has pretended like I don’t exist. Part of me knows that she doesn’t love me now, and didn’t love me then, because a loving person would have never done the things she did. Part of me knows that I can never be a part of that family.

My mother hasn’t been a mother in the last 30 years. There’s no reason for her to change now. She won’t change. She will never be 1/100th what I need her to be. And her letter won’t be what I need it be. I don’t even think I need to read it to know that it isn’t. But I still want to read it. Part of me wants to know what she has to say.

I feel like I would have been better off not knowing this letter existed. I could tell my friend to throw it away, or I could take it and burn it myself. But then I would never know what my mother wrote, and I’m not sure I can manage never knowing. I also know that I could never handle reading the letter on my own. The mere knowledge of the letter’s existence has created an emotional storm in me that I am trying my best to weather. I imagine the its contents would let loose a tornado.

At first, I wanted to rush back to my home of origin just to get that letter; part of me still does. It’s that hope again, rearing its head in my consciousness.

But I am trying to focus on what is important to me here. I can exist without that letter. I have things to do here, experiences to celebrate. I have made it 499 days, without her and without her letter.