by Lara Frase
I’ve always had this misconstrued view of strength. I used to believe that reaching out for help was showing weakness, needing assistance was being a failure, and crying was a flaw. Because of that, I made sure to never show any of those signs of “weakness.” Few people considered me strong and many saw me as weak already, so I knew I couldn’t afford to show how “weak” I really was. I also wanted to be strong for myself, to prove to myself that I wasn’t some fragile little flower.
Because of my view of what strength was, when anxiety hit me, I recoiled into myself. I hid my anxiety and drew in, away from any outreached arms that wanted to help me. I didn’t want help because that meant I was too weak to do it on my own. Besides that, I didn’t want others to know that I had anxiety. That was another “weakness” that I didn’t want to claim. So I suffered through panic attack after panic attack, which was then accompanied by depression. Despite how much I struggled and suffered though, I refused to uncoil from my inner world of “safety” and “strength.”
This is an idea that comes from our society: Be strong so that people won’t walk all over you. Be strong so that you can withstand what comes at you. Be strong to earn respect. This isn’t strength though; this is a weakness known as pride. Being too prideful to reach out for help gets you nowhere as I soon discovered when I first started suffering from anxiety. There are so many options around you to go to for help: friends, family, counselors, etc. So many people out there want to help you and reaching out to them is not weakness; in fact, it’s a sign of strength. Exposing yourself and what you suffer with to someone else – especially a complete stranger- is hard and scary, and it takes strength to do so. One day I stepped into my guidance counselor’s office and said, “I need to speak to someone about mental illness.” And it remains one of the scariest but bravest things I’ve ever done. The same was true for when I told my friends and family. I shook and freaked out every time I’ve told someone about my struggle, but doing something despite how it scares you is the very definition of bravery.
People don’t understand how much strength fighting a mental illness like anxiety takes, but it I know from experience that it takes a lot. So take the outreached hand. I promise you won’t regret it. Get help today with what you’re struggling with, whatever it may be. Remember what real strength is and never let the world’s view of strength make you think that you are weak.