When you’ve suffered from depression for over half of your life, it feels sometimes like all the thoughts that need to tumble out of you are the negative ones. Some days it’s hard to identify the good parts of yourself; the good parts of your life. Despite the fact that this is a really hard day for me personally, I’m going to choose to focus on talking about my strengths because I really need to feel them today.
For the majority of my life, I feel like I’ve been code-switching, adapting myself to fit in best with those around me. It’s probably something that we all do to an extent, but it often makes me feel like I’m not being genuine, or that others see me as fake or flaky. Of course I have to tone down my gregarious, outspoken nature in professional settings, and of course when I’m around people that seem uncomfortable with my willingness to talk about anything deeply personal as though it’s not private, I am clued in. Mostly.
It’s hard sometimes being a natural extrovert, because the connotation of that is “bubbly, happy go lucky person”. That’s not necessarily me. My extroversion is the ability to find common ground with almost anyone, to be comfortable approaching people, to almost never feel socially awkward. It doesn’t mean I’m always positive. I try to be positive. I try not to be dead weight that drags people down, and I’ve always dealt with tragedy with wit. But sometimes I come across a friend that needs for me to pipe down on the jokes and take them seriously. And I can do that. I’m more than happy to let them talk their way through things, often only asking a question here and there, while they figure out what they need.
If physical support is what is needed, I can do that, too. I was the college friend that would drive 2 hours to get you drunk and laugh all night after a break up. I’m the friend that will pick your daughter up immediately if you call me because your husband’s surgery had complications and you’re a mess and can’t even think straight. I will organize a fundraiser and make sure you have food and offer to do your laundry or your taxes if you find yourself in the midst of tragedy. The most difficult part of making connections through social media is having people I care for living in far and wide places, because I’m not able to be there for them to hug them, to listen in person, to hold them together when they need it the most.
The most recent thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am so much stronger than I think. I’ve always thought of myself as physically strong, and strong-willed (not always a positive trait), but I’ve never really considered that I could be referred to as a “strong woman”. And to be honest, sometimes I kind of subscribe to the line of thinking that ALL women are strong women, but I don’t think that’s quite right. I think there are women out there that need to be cared for, whereas I only need to feel cared about. I’m learning through the process of separation and divorce that there are not many things I can’t handle on my own. I’m discovering that when I’m really, really struggling and down that I can get through it with music and humor and just a little bit of tears. I hope I’m strong enough that the people in my life can see me as a source of strength. I have so much to give, and I want to give it all away, and for the first time in a really long time I KNOW my own value. I know what I can give others, how I can be a positive force to others. That is huge because I truly have had such dark moments over the past few years where I felt like I was worthless and unworthy of anyone else’s love and attention.
More importantly, for the first time in my life, I feel like no matter what is happening, how much pain I’m in, it will be okay. Whatever the outcome, I can keep myself afloat until I’m able to swim successfully again. I can be enough for myself. I am enough.