By Hanna | Featured Contributor
Sometimes Strong Is:
Taking a break
Having a cry
Listening to your body
Holding your tongue
Asking for help
Saying you can’t
Getting out of bed
Loving with your whole heart
Wanting with your whole heart
Breathing through the pain
Just being here
My dear reader, thank you for reading! I do hope you enjoyed. I wrote this poem for myself when I was in a lot of pain, but really this poem is for you. Let me explain…
A mantra which I repeat very often to myself is: I am you and you are me. I’ve just realized that this sounds suspiciously like the first line of “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles. I do like that song, but quirks and rock and roll aside, the point is that I’m a big believer in commonality. And so when I say that I wrote this poem for myself, I really mean that I wrote this poem for you. I truly believe that underneath, we are one.
This poem is very much informed by my experience living with disability, specifically my experience recovering from a mild traumatic brain injury. When I suffered the severe concussion that would upend my life, it was as if overnight, I had lost the person that I thought I was. Before my brain injury, I was a cold-blooded, high-achieving 20-year-old. My days were spent—quite literally in their entirety—studying. I was 3 years into an honors mathematics degree at a prestigious university and as far as I was concerned, nothing was going to slow me down. I wasn’t just smart—I was really smart.
But after my brain injury, I was at most a mathematician in spirit. I couldn’t think like I used to, I couldn’t work like I used to, I was home-bound, and I was impaired in an uncountable number of ways by post-concussion syndrome and migraine disorder. Despite it all, despite the shame of losing my intellect, my safety net, a new feeling flickered into being—pride. Why was I proud? Because my brain injury made me realize that I was stronger than I’d ever known.
Do you know what happened the day I wrote this poem? I went for a walk, and like time and time again, the noise, lights, and visual stimulation of a busy intersection over-stressed my injured brain. Suddenly, post-traumatic headache was taking over—my body was out of my control. In that moment, standing at the intersection with my eyes closed, trying to calm my reckless breathing and master my pain, I had to draw upon all my strength. I had to face the fact that I was no longer the high-flyer I once was, comforted by shining transcripts and intellectual smugness. It took strength to realize that I was facing a really scary predicament. And so I faced the truth, I turned around, and I walked home. Once home, I cried a lot, and then I wrote myself a list of what it means to be strong. My list hit my heart as only the truth can. And while it was born from my own curious predicament, I do hope that it will fit your life, your story, like a glove.
My dear reader, wherever you are on your journey through life, I need you to know what it means to be strong. We often conflate strength with an aura of invincibility. But let me ask you, who is stronger? The tree or the flower? The tree is protected by thick bark, and secured to the earth by crisscrossing and ever-burrowing roots. The tree is little bothered by heavy rain or the echoing gales of an angry wind. The flower, on the other hand, is vulnerable. But still the flower exists, petals stretched wide, smiling up at the torrential skies, waiting for the sun.
My dear reader, if you are stuck in a torrential rainfall—know that you are strong. If hurt is threatening to engulf you, if your grief is bigger than sense and time, if fear intrudes mercilessly, if your body is in constant pain, if getting out of bed is the very best you can do today—know that you are strong.
The flower is strong on those perfect, sunny days too. The days that leave an imprint on the imagination, triggering only nostalgia and fresh excitement for your beating heart and your mortal frame. On these days, the flower must be strong. Why? Because on these days, the flower is reminded of that incomprehensible truth that nothing is permanent. To love, to be grateful, to witness the fullness and beauty of life—this takes strength.
So my dear reader, wherever you are in this moment, give yourself some credit. And remember what it really means to be strong.
Hanna is a 22-year-old who lives with disability. She is passionate about self-love and hopes to share her thoughts and other inspiring stories of resilience, authenticity, and compassion on her blog. She is so very grateful for all the good things that others have given her, and she strives to give back in her own way.
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