If you are reading this post with the hope of finding more positivity and ableist guff than please look away now. Let me save you the heartache. But if you are willing to briefly explore and examine some of the underlying messages hidden behind the current phenomenon of what I call strongism and a diatribe on why I believe it is unhealthy then read on…
There are a lot of memes and an awful lot of talk these days about the strong women ideal. But what is it really? Am I the only one that isn’t sure of some of the hidden messages lurking beneath all this noise?
It seems to me that this recent phenomena, where there are a lot of slogans touting about being a strong woman suggests that such a thing is a recent movement belonging to this generation or moment in time… But I don’t believe it is a recent event at all.
I believe that strong women have existed since there were even women, and that it has been a cultural and generational perception that has hidden this fact. I can honestly say I have never met a weak woman in my entire life. I have met real women, wonderful women, beautifully imperfect women, authentic women, evolving and learning women … and I am one too.
But now I would like to examine the hidden dangers of the strong women rhetoric in the context of chronic illness.
There is this perception that only weak people develop chronic illnesses and that if you are unfortunate to identify as having a chronic illness / autoimmune disease then you are forever required to be stronger than any other person alive to compensate for this lack of health, as though it were somehow linked to a lack of character.
It is this thinking that holds many sufferers back and dehumanizes them. I say dehumanize because no living human being can be strong and happy all the time. It is not a character flaw to have an illness or disability. No woman. or man, has the power to be happy and strong all the time, or should ever be expected to be!
I believe that telling someone with a chronic illness to simply stay strong is dismissive and over simplifies the real struggle of chronic illnesses. I would rather someone say that they can’t imagine what it must be like… because they can’t!
I don’t consider myself a weak person, I don’t consider myself to be without character or intellect, so it is not a poor indictment on myself when I say I have all the range of emotions and difficulties that anyone else would if they were in my position.
Some days I hate this life. Some days I can’t bear the burdens I carry. Some days I cry constantly. Some days I don’t want to go on. Some days I want to end it all. Some days I fear what lies ahead. Some days I feel I have been dealt a terrible hand in life. Does that make me a weak person? Not even close!!!
It makes me human.
I feel as though anyone else would if they woke up one day, in the prime of their life, to the worst hangover they have ever known, plus the worst flu they had ever had and without any control over their bodily functions or health AND … they never got better. And may remain this way perhaps until they die.
But I am strong. And so is everyone else with chronic illness. And we keep trying to keep going against these odds and hardships. Everyday. Every moment of the day.
We all have strong moments where we manage to do things we never thought we could do. I do them all the time. And I have weak moments where I feel close to breaking.
I don’t have to be silent about my pain to prove I am a strong person and that is what I want the world, and my fellow chronic brothers and sisters to embrace and remember.