I went to a party recently where I got talking to a confident and straight-talking Scottish woman. Lord knows why, but somehow we got talking about weakness. She was convinced that the best form of defence was to never show weakness – that to be weak was to be pathetic.

I disagree. I don’t think strength is about the British stiff upper lip – it’s not about never breaking down. I think strength is about having the courage to break down – to have a moment of weakness – and being confident that afterwards you will be able to pick yourself up again.

I have had moments of weakness recently. Not long ago I had one of the panic attacks that strike every few months, and this weekend, having been so unsettled by my recent fit of anger, I essentially ran away to the familiar, my old uni. (And as an aside… my recent wobbly moments are perfect illustrations of what I was talking about in The Five Stages of Absurdity).

Whilst there, I met up with some of the women I know are grappling with horrible memories. It made me think about strength. I have said it before, but I will say it again. We are the strong ones. We are the ones who were attacked, invaded, rendered silent. And we picked ourselves up, and we faced the day. The reason we are strong is not because we are fine (because we’re not), but because we are facing it. Remember: “the brave thing to do is to let your feelings affect you.” Strength is allowing yourself to let your emotions take over, because they need an outlet. And strength is not letting that emotion completely take you over – being able to come back to yourself.

I ran away because I needed to, and now I’m getting back to me. So healing – healing is not about always being kept together. Sometimes it is about being in bits. Don’t be afraid to rage, and don’t be afraid to weep, and don’t be afraid to have moments of vulnerability. These times prove your strength. You are not damaged if you have these moments. Something ugly happened to you. It is normal to have ugly reactions. Don’t believe anybody who says anything different. You are towers of strength.


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  1. #1 by Me on November 23, 2010 - 10:50 pm

    Definitely needed to hear that.
    It is true though – I know a few people that are sruvivors of rape and assault. I always tell them, they are STRONG. They SURVIVED it. It’s just difficult to realise sometimes that I belong in the same category, that I too am strong.
    Facing up to what happens does take strength. Burrying pain can never be the answer – it will always find you in the end. Every single survivor is stronger than s/he realises.

    • #2 by ivebeenstrippedbythis on November 23, 2010 - 11:49 pm

      Definitely true. A friend of mine once said “Rape shatters and affects so many different parts of you that it takes time to glue it all back together. But simply laying out the pain out the pain on the table is not enough. You have to actually engage with it.” So moments of weakness are to be expected and welcomed, if they are a catalyst for you thinking some stuff through, I think.

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