It Didn't Kill Me, but I'm Not Sure It Made Me Stronger, Not Yet
Cheryl Hale Quinnelly·January 27, 2021
I have heard it a million times (I bet you have too), what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. As comforting as this may seem, I am not sure that this is always the case. Maybe the strength comes later in the process, further on down the road of healing. It almost feels like we make small, tearful deposits of our pain and struggle into our strength account and then eventually we can withdraw the strength we didn’t know we had in a time we never thought we would be in.
Just a side note…if I am being prepared for something worse or harder, I am going to opt out right now. Can I do that? Is there a list I can get on? Because I will sign up for the “Life Stop Kicking Me in the Teeth” list in a heartbeat.
The past year has been difficult for all of us. From what I can see, people are afraid, more afraid than I have ever noticed. Rightfully so. Times are hard right now. There is more than enough going on to stoke the flames of fear inside each of us.
That being said the past couple of years in my life have really challenged me to my core. I am going to call these my gladiator challenges.These particular difficulties, the gladiators, lead me to question everything I have ever thought I believed. I am talking about head spinning, out of nowhere gut punches that leave you bowled over and gasping for air. To my surprise, it did not kill me, but I can tell you that it FELT like the darkness was going to kill me, and feeling is a powerful force. Powerful feelings must be processed, and they usually don’t like to be ignored.
Don’t get me wrong. I do know that things could be worse, far worse. I am extremely grateful for all of the goodness and love that I do have in my life. All things considered, I am one of the lucky ones. My goal is to live in that space of gratitude. I want my mind and my heart to be a servant of gratitude. However, there are days when the hurt has to be addressed, and the pain is pinging in my ears so loudly that I cannot hear anything else.
As I go through the process of trying to make sense of it all and find some healing, I do not feel strong. Not even a little bit. I feel weak, tired, angry, but strong, never not once. When I reflect over difficult situations in the past it seems more like I developed a trauma response rather than strength. Maybe it’s a mixture of the two.
I am not a medical professional, but this is my take on what I call trauma responses. I see it as something we do to keep our head above water in the midst of troubling chaos. It is survival mode and survival responses. Trauma responses can be directly related to the current difficulty or it can be connected to past traumas. Our current gladiator can take us all the way back to a life defining gladiator moment and seek to destroy us with old habits and old wounds. That is when the same old stories start creeping back in, you know. The “what did I do to deserve this?” ‘Why me” etc.
For me, trauma response looks like keeping my head down and keep working hard. I figured out how to put one foot in front of the other because people needed me.None of these are bad things, and there is an element of strength to carrying on with life. But all of those responses do not allow space for true healing. I kept afloat because my life needed me to keep going and that is what I did. Until I didn’t. Now I am not floating, I am swimming through the sea of emotions and questions while headed to the shore of my healing. I can see it on the horizon, my place of peace.
So here I am now, taking a break. Processing things that do not make sense to me. Learning to let go of expectations. Looking for the new. Don’t get me wrong, I am not wallowing in past hurt. But I am sitting with them for a moment to see what I need to take away from everything that has happened. What can I learn? What will it take for me to heal? How do I move from trauma to true strength? Where is my freedom? These are the questions I am asking of myself. I have always believed that questions prompt divine intervention. Hopefully I am right.