Posted by: katedaphne | February 7, 2008

What is strength?

Someone called me “strong” again today. It ought to be a compliment; it is certainly meant as one. Then why does it always feel so weird to be told that?

When someone tells me they are impressed with my strength or that I am “so strong,” I always feel like a big fraud. I mean, I know I — like all of us in this boat — spend a lot of time pretending, faking it, using various disguises to get through the day. And when someone comments on my strength, I feel even fakier.

If Only They Knew.

Seriously, how strong does it make you to be not-a-complete-and-utter-fuckup every day at work? I mean, is that what the standard is nowadays? If so, I can see why our country’s GDP is tanking. If everyone is as unproductive as I am, while maintaining a veneer of competence….

True, I’m not curled up in a ball under my desk sobbing every day. But you know what? I’d like to!! It feels like cheating to accept points for that. When I was a teacher I used to tell my students, “You don’t get extra credit for doing what you’re supposed to do.” — ie, extra credit is for doing something extra! I mean, everybody gets by, don’t they? Really, I think a lot of people would like to curl up under their desks most days. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a secret life just like I do. Many are a lot happier — but I think more are just as bleak, and I suppose some are even worse. But we all get up and get dressed and go to work and do our jobs to some degree.

I’m not strong or special, at least I don’t feel that way. I’m just doing what I have to do. I don’t want to or like to, I’m just trudging along with the hand I was dealt. And when I come home, I curl up with my doggies and whimper for a while. I run around maniacally working on some meaningless project for a while, then sit back, either catatonic or weepy. I eat all the wrong things at all the wrong times. Yesterday my food consumption was: Breakfast, cup of strong black English Breakfast Tea. Lunch: Forgot to eat. 4 p.m.: Glass of iced tea and three chocolate chip cookies. Dinner: a quarter of a chicken breast, half a baked potato, 5 grapes. Slim Fast ice cream bar (compliments of my mom, I don’t diet). Today it’s been the tea for breakfast, 9 teriyaki chicken wings and some iced tea for lunch (former co-worker took me out to lunch, it was on my calendar so I couldn’t forget), and … that’s it. Will probably nibble on a little dinner later if Mike cooks, which he will because he knows I won’t eat otherwise. Is this the food diary of someone strong?

I could give a list of other symptoms or manifestations of my un-normal-ness (sleeplessness, nail-biting, etc.), but it would bore you and frighten me to see it all listed out. Suffice to say, there’s more, and every day keeping it together is a freaking miracle.

So — what is the definition of “strong”? Or maybe a better question is, if this is strong, what does weak look like?



  1. Oh Kate, my heart just breaks for you reading this. I know those feelings (and those behaviors) so well. I remember finding it so irritating to be told that I was strong for putting up with non-optional suckage, when I would have immediately (and gladly) gone to pieces if I thought that would have made the pain any less. Sometimes all that you can do is put one foot in front of the other, and hope for some kind of resolution somewhere down the road.

    I think that sometimes being strong is also non-optional. When you have a huge weight to bear, you really do have to develop the muscles to carry it somehow.

    Do yourself a favor, and try to eat a little better, OK? Being underfueled can make even moderate misery feel so much worse.

    Thinking of you.

  2. Your post really made me think–I actually read it last night and came back to it this morning.
    It’s hard to define strength in this journey–I think getting out of bed every day on some days can be seen as strength! I have gotten to the point where I have to have constant reminders to live in the NOW-to try and focus on each hour of the day…it can be challenging, but like Sara said, its like you are forced to develop new muscles to carry the weight.
    Always here if you need a shoulder to lean on…

  3. I get what you mean.

    I have no idea what constitutes strong, we just do what we do because life deals us cards that leave no other choice.


  4. I, too, get what you mean. When people tell me how strong I am, that they couldn’t do what I’m doing, I just think how lucky they are to even be able to think that about me from such a safe distance, that they really don’t understand how the appearance of strength is actually more of a front than anything else.

    I guess I do feel proud of my tiny bit of strength, though. Why not? There isn’t much to feel proud of in this mess, otherwise!

  5. I think it does take strength to just survive. We WANT to curl up and die and we don’t. We want to walk a way, but we can’t and still have our dream.

    I think about how some people close to me would have handled our situation and I think they would have given up a long time ago.

    I understand what you are saying though. It has frustrated me too – especially when they add something like, “God only gives us what we can handle.” I say we find out what we can survive when we have to survive it and compared to the option, do we really have much of a choice?

  6. I just found your blog through Kami’s. I actually stopped blogging for about 3 months (and noticed that’s when you started). I was going through some rough times and needed a break and just got back into blogging again. I’m so glad I found your link and its helped me so much to read your blog. We have similar paths and I’m so so sorry for all you had to endure but I so get everything you are saying. I just read through your entire blog and I found so much of myself in your posts.

    I too have been told I’ve been strong and so many people have told me they don’t think they could endure what I have. But I don’t consider myself strong either. I had no choice and I only found ways to cope. I think I did become stronger because of this journey but I still don’t think I have a great handle on everything. I’m just surviving and trying to get through all of this crap the best I can; and like Kami said, we don’t really have a choice but to.

  7. Hi! I’m *assuming* that you are the katedaphne that commented on my blog whose name I googled to find you, whose blog I just read 90% of. I hope so anyway. Especially since you have me on your blogroll. I am adding you to my kick ass list.

    (I don’t know what strong is other than the ability to keep living, but I do know kick ass when I read it.)

  8. Hi Kate,
    I’ve been meaning to add this comment forever!

    I had the same question for IVFC and people wrote back such great thoughts. Check it out..

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