Perspectives on strength, perception of weakness

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The other day I got a new comment on an older blog post, in which I was talking about mourning my brother. Brad asked me how I found the strength to write about something so enormous as losing a beloved person. My initial reaction was “It is not strength, it is weakness. I am weak, and therefore I am writing it down.” But then I really thought about it, and I think Brad is right, and I came to some totally new conclusions for myself.

The other day I had a pretty heated discussion with my mother. I won’t go into detail, but at some point during the discussion I asked her why she never tells me when she feels sad, down or sick. Her response was that talking about these things does not change them. True, of course. No talk in the world will change facts, loss or grief.

We live in a society that rejects weakness. You don’t feel well, but have to do this presentation in work – you put on make-up to hide the traces. Somebody asks you how you are, and you almost automatically reply “Fine.”. You suffer from depression or anxiety or whatever psycho inconvenience, but you tell your boss you have a bad case of the flu. You make the doctor write “flu” on the sick note, so nobody will know. Weakness makes you vulnerable and you don’t want to be hurt – or fired, for that matter. And that is ok, of course. I even advice you to hide certain flaws in certain circumstances, because there will always be someone with bad intentions trying to turn it against you.

But in general, if you want to get over things and live a happy life, please talk! I do firmly believe that my mother is wrong in what she said. Asking for help, or just letting your friends and family know, that you are, in fact, not fine, is not a sign of weakness, but strength. My life was only really a mess until I finally asked for help – first from my friends, then from a professional. Talking about your problems (please not that every time I put words into italic letters here, my head thinks in a sarcastic voice) will give you at least relief, and in many cases, a new perspective. And you might be surprised by some reactions, too!

I probably mentioned that I am really scared of driving on the infamous German Autobahnen, our motorways. It came to a point that even thinking about it had me covered in sweat. So at some stage, I decided to just take a few guided lessons in a driving school car (you know, where the passenger part also has brakes and an accelerator, so the teacher is in control even if you climb into the back seat during full speed). I was SO embarrassed when I called that driving school. The teacher was very nonchalant, and we set a date for a lesson. I was mortified, but more than that, my embarrassment had me cringing. Before we started, she asked me all kinds of questions: Did I lack practise? No, I have driven without an accident for 20 years! Did I feel insecure driving? No, in fact, I used to go for drives just to relax! What happened? I don’t know, it came out of the blue, and as soon as I enter a motorway, I go into panic mood. So we drove. I was fine, totally fine. I told her how embarrassed I was and she said “Don’t be, it is a sign of strength to admit your weakness!” By the way, those lessons did not cure my fear of driving the motorway, because in real life, there is no passenger seat with brakes and accelerators. But I am finally able to accept that this is my fear-spot and that it is ok to say so instead of covering it up.

When I told my friend about these driving lessons, she said “I admire your ability to ask for help.” What the hell does that mean? So far, every time I had to ask for help, I felt like a failure. When my super friends sat me down 10 years ago and told me that the therapy (I had only begun a couple of weeks before that incident) was obviously not working, and I should get more help, I felt like a failure. When I couldn’t get over my brother’s death fast enough (Friend after three months “Oh, your are STILL not feeling better?), I felt like a failure.

And then I started talking, talking to the right people. Talking to my journal. I found the courage to tell my employer that I didn’t constantly have the flu. I allowed myself to be emotional. And guess what? I started to feel better. It is important to express your feelings, be it through talking, writing, playing music or whatever way suits you. When you open up, you will get an overwhelming response. And, as a side-effect, you will learn to free yourself from those who take advantage of your weakness.

I went for a lovely winter walk today. I paid a visit to my favourite cemetery and found my favourite hidden spot there that you see in the photo above. It is a secluded grave of a little girl called Lieselotte. Lieselotte was born in 1906 and died in 1918. The enamel picture on the tombstone shows her playing with her doll. The picture is spooky and touching at the same time. The tombstone was obviously put there by her parents Otto and Mia, who had their birth dates put on there already and apparently planned to be buried there, too. The date of death is missing, so I suppose they are not there. On the stone they wrote “Your life was a big delight for us, your death the deepest pain.” We don’t know what happened to Lieselotte, or to Otto and Mia. But they did voice their pain, and we can still hear it. There are always fresh flowers on the grave, and I often wonder who puts them there. It is obviously someone who listens.

Be a talker, be a listener. It will make a huge difference!

I wish a happy and healthy 2017 to all of you!

Kerstin

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3 thoughts on “Perspectives on strength, perception of weakness

  1. I stopped talking so much about my problems. And you know what? I feel better now. Constantly talking about stressful things keeps the focus on… stressful things. Of course I still have my blog and my therapist, but I am a lot happier now that I stopped discussing every single emotion.

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