Vulnerability

I grew up with a fiercely independent mother who told me that if I let people see my weaknesses they will take advantage of them.  I know what you're thinking, "wow, what a cynical way to look at the world."  And you're right, in a way it is a cynical way to look at things, but it's also the way people see things when their only focus is survival. And all my life I've only known my mother to be in survival mode.  She passed that onto me and as thankful as I am to have inherited a lot of her redeeming qualities, this is not one of them.  This one has done nothing but cripple me for the most part. When I was younger I believed that denying my vulnerability made me stronger.  In hindsight, I now see how it only made me more vulnerable. I spent so much of my time projecting this version of myself that was inauthentic to who I am all because I was trying to hide what I thought made me weak. I made people think I didn't care about anything.  Like I was this cold, apathetic asshole.  Looking back, I didn't even feel human.  Probably because I was actively doing everything in my power to not be human. You spend so much time denying the things that make you feel vulnerable that when you do experience that feeling, you don't know what to do with it or how to deal with it.  For me, I tried everything I could do to run away from it.  From acting like it didn't exist to completely numbing it with drugs or alcohol.  I had no way of understanding what or how to deal with vulnerability because I had been taught that it was a weakness that should be kept from people if I didn't want to be taken advantage of.  That lesson was helpful in certain situations, but it hindered my growth as an emotionally stable human being for a really long time. It held me back in a lot of ways, not just emotionally. My relationships were affected and my creativity as an artist is something that is still being impacted by my inability to open myself up to vulnerabilities.  

In the last year I've been diagnosed with Aspergers, c-ptsd, depression, anxiety and I'm bipolar, so you can imagine how difficult it was going through life trying to hide all these things I thought made me weak without even knowing what was going on in my head, what was going on with my own emotions or even understanding what those emotions were. Going through life without the knowledge of my mental health problems was like trying to build ikea furniture without any directions.  It's already hard enough with drawn out instructions and in my case, I had none at all.  I didn't know what it was that made things different for me.  It's easy to feel weak, like a failure even, when you look around and there are so many of these shining examples of strong individuals who go through life in a seemingly effortless way while you're hiding in bathrooms drunk crying because you don't know how to deal with your own emotions.  Comparison emotionally crippled me.  I still struggle with it.  

With my mental health issues coming to light, I've been able to focus on simply acknowledging that I do have weaknesses, I do have vulnerabilities...and that's OKAY.  It makes me human and it makes my story relatable. It connects me to other people, wonderful people. It's exactly why I started this blog, I wanted to build connections with people who are just looking for things to make life a little easier.  Sometimes something as simple as knowing you're not the only one makes a world of difference.  It's my goal to make that difference. I've learned that being vulnerable and being weak are not mutually exclusive and that the only way to rid yourself of vulnerability is to open yourself up to it.  By grabbing the bull by its metaphorical horns essentially.  It's terrifying and it's difficult.  A lot of tears are involved, but that's usually the case in any kind of strength training.  Strengthening your mind and your confidence in your ability to greet your emotions with a warm welcome and kindly show them to the door when it's time to leave takes as much effort as training to strengthen your body.  You will hit road blocks, you will cry, you will fall down, but eventually you'll be strong enough to stand back up. Humans are resilient that way.  

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Now that I address my feelings rather than running away from them I can coach myself through them and you can do that too.  Just try to remember that being vulnerable doesn't make you weak, it makes you honest. It makes you courageous. Truth and courage are not always comfortable, but they are never weakness.  I recently read a quote by Neil Gaiman that really resonated with me in this current quest to overcome my fear of exposing my vulnerability.  It goes as follows, "Honesty matters.  Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or impossible place matters more than anything." I want to be an honest person to those around me, but most importantly to myself.  I don't want to deny myself the magic that is being human. I want to be that magic and I want to create it in the world. I want to be a person who cares more, who tries harder, loves stronger.  I am still learning to love myself through the process of owning my story.  If I could give one piece of advice to anyone out there who is struggling it's this, just take it one day at a time.  That's all that is required. Just wake up and put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.  Trust that your struggle is part of your healing.  It's all part of the process. Open yourself up to the world of possibility, allow yourself to become who you are capable of becoming. Do not deny yourself that magic, because you are magic...let the world see that!

-Stilts