They’ve been calling you strong. You can’t see it as you crawl back into bed, an action you feel you take more often than the number of steps you walk.
“You’re amazing!” they say. They tell you how brave you are. How strong you must be to be able to walk what you do. But all you feel is defeated. And even sometimes, their words of encouragement bring anger. How dare they tell you that you are good or brave or strong. Don’t they know?
I see you.
I see you as you take that deep breath before walking into the room of people you’re used to seeing each week and doing your best to be a human today. I saw that breath, and though you feel like a fake as you take each little step, make each half-smile and say things that are normal as you feel anything but, I see you. And you are anything but fake.
I see you walk into the store, cursing each step, wondering how anyone can expect you to do normal things when normal no longer matters. I see you do all the impossible things – choosing strawberries and allowing the decision over which carton is best to mercifully fill your brain for just a moment, so you can feel something else. I see you do your best, only to have to turn around just as you get to the checkout because you forgot the only thing you came for. I see the look in your eyes, the one that says, “I’m done and I can’t. We quite literally don’t need milk, we need our normal back,” but head to the back of the store regardless.
The thing is, you hear them tell you you are brave, you hear them say you are strong, but as you get home and leave that milk in the car, the only strength left is going to getting back to your bed, not to carrying the godforsaken milk to the fridge. You hear them, and you don’t believe them. Because all you want is for normal to mean something again. Even what was normal, no longer is, it’s simply what was before your life turned upside down. And as you crawl into bed, the words you hear in your head are that if you were strong, you wouldn’t have to come back to that bed. That if you were strong, you’d be able to put the milk away. That if you were strong, your smile would sometimes be real, your small talk, words you’d remember having said. That if you were strong, the fog would lift.
But friend. I see you.
And you are strong. For even if all you did was breathe today, you did. You lived. You survived. And if you made small talk that you can’t remember in your fog of what is no longer normal, you only did so because you are strong. Because you were brave enough to throw that ponytail up on your head and breathe. And move. And walk. And get in the car. And buy milk. At some point, the milk will get in the fridge, but if today, if all you did today was buy the milk, then you climbed the first mountain top. The next mountaintop is the fridge. Or small talk you remember later that day. Or smiles that hold a bit of truth. Or breathing, that turned into another day.
If all you did was breathe through your pain today, yes, you are brave. And yes, you are strong. And yes. Yes, I see you. And I promise you with my whole heart, that I am not the only one that sees you. It’s not that those people, your friends, your family, that told you that you’re brave and strong can’t see who you really are. It’s because they see who you really are that they say those things.
And so, as you crawl back into the safety that is that bed where you hide from the pain, or live in the dreams of what used to be normal, believe them. Believe me.
You are brave. You are strong. And we see you.