Finding Strength in Vulnerability

by - February 01, 2018

When I find a song that I really like, I tend to put it on repeat. All day long. I’ll listen to it in the car on the way to work and school. I put my headphones in and listen to it while walking from my car to my classes. I’ve got it on while I’m in the shower, while I do the dishes…you get the picture. (I do try to keep the volume low so my roommates don’t hate me. So far, so good-as far I know.) Luckily, this only lasts a few days to a week, until I have to avoid the song for a while before putting it back into normal rotation. 

As I mentioned in last Saturday’s post, the song of last week was “Naked” by James Arthur. For the first day or two, I listened superficially. The song has a melancholy but lovely melody and passionate vocals that compelled me to listen again and again. Then, one night I was tossing about, praying for sleep to grace me with its presence, and I turned it on hoping his soothing voice would lull me to sleep. Well, let’s just say that it didn’t help with the sleeping, but it did force me to listen more closely to the lyrics. These words hit me in particular:

“I’m not gonna wait until you’re done pretending you don’t need anyone” 

I used to be the person pretending that I didn’t need anyone. Whether it stemmed from depression, anxiety, or general shyness and insecurity, I don’t know, but for most of my life I kept people at a distance. I only let them see the shiny exterior (which one can only project for so long). I was so determined to prove I was fine on my own that I missed out on opportunities to get to know some great people. 

That all changed in college when I made friends with people who didn’t take no for an answer. They just were my friends. January of 2016, when my mental health took a nose dive, I put up my usual barricades and tried to retreat into myself. I don’t think that I will ever be able to fully express my gratitude for my friends at that time. 

I remember a particular day when my roommate refused to let me brood over my anxious and depressed state and coaxed me into talking about what was going on. At that point, I didn’t understand that I was mentally ill. I figured that if I just plugged along, doing my best to take care of my physical health and trying to be happy, my problems would resolve themselves. I definitely didn’t need any other human besides myself to “fix” my troubles. I was always more than happy to listen when others needed someone to talk to, but I didn’t need anything from anyone. 

From that day on, I gradually began (with extensive help from my roommate) to see the value in sharing my feelings and experiences. At first, it was all for me. Keeping things bottled up only made me feel worse, so I learned to share with friends and family. Letting other people in on my mental state allowed my loved ones to direct me towards professional help and to provide the encouragement and emotional support that I needed on a day-to-day (let’s be honest: minute-to-minute) basis. 

Over the next two years, I continued this dialogue. As my health improved, sharing went from emotionally vomiting to constructive conversations. I discovered that a number of people in my circle of friends had dealt with/still deal with similar struggles. The more I talked to others, the more I realized that I was not alone in my pain. Sometimes, I needed to listen, and other times I needed to talk. 

The more I talked, and the more I listened, the more I realized how pointless it was for me to keep people at a football field’s length. I needed them, and they needed me. Pretending that I didn’t need anyone only isolated me and allowed depression to fill my brain with its lies. I couldn’t live off of keeping the depression at bay; I needed to fill my mind with truth, empathy, love, kindness, understanding. 

“Getting half of you just ain’t enough” 

We think that putting up walls shows our strength, but if we are strong we don’t need the walls. It takes strength to be vulnerable, to shed our facades. Pretending that my life was perfect didn’t make it so. Rather, it prevented me from being authentic with others. We don't need to tell every person who says hello about all our struggles, but we do have to let go of the need to appear perfectly put together. We all need at least one person in our lives who will listen to us and still love us even when we are a mess, even when we feel that we are worthless and useless. Otherwise, we are only playacting, only being half of who we are. 

I see a great example of this when I watch certain selfish dancers. By selfish, I mean they dance for themselves, sometimes because they’re so focused on being perfect that they forget to perform and sometimes because they’re cocky. My favorite dancers to watch are the ones that give their everything. In the moment, they’re sharing a piece of their soul with their audience. 

“I’m not gonna try ’til you decide you’re ready to swallow all your pride.” 

While I was in the process of finding a strength in vulnerability, I met a person who had more walls up than I did. I make no claims of being perfect in the situation, but at a certain point I could no longer deal with the fortress preventing me from seeing the real person. I couldn’t wait around for someone who tried to overtly push me away yet subtly keep me around. My own personal progression required me to move on. 

“Can’t you see that I’m naked”

Here on this blog, I am attempting to continue this journey of finding strength in vulnerability. In sharing my experiences, I find that I am able to make sense of and learn from them. I hope you find something valuable in them as well. 

Thank you for letting me share with you. 

Stay amiable,

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