I feel things so intensely. When I’m happy, I’m HAPPY. And when I’m upset, it feels like my world is falling apart. I have a ridiculous temper. And when I love people, I LOVE them. I will drop everything for people I barely know. I’m a hopeless freaking romantic and I hate admitting it because it makes me vulnerable. I’m sensitive. So so sensitive. And if I’m ever playing it off like I’m not then I’m a dirty liar because chances are if someone says something even slightly negative to me, I’ll be beating myself up over it for the next two weeks. And those are just the small things. I used to be under the impression that because I feel SO much pain so easily that I’m weak.

I have never thought of myself as a strong person. So much so that I’d actually get annoyed whenever anyone told me otherwise. Having a baby young then dealing with a deployment, followed by a long relationship ending—among many other events—that was all I ever heard. How “strong” I was. How “well” I was dealing with everything. All I could think every time was they don’t know me. They don’t know how many times I’ve cried myself to sleep or that the pain in my chest was so crippling that there were moments I would have done almost anything to make it stop. Sometimes people think they aren’t strong because they’re dealing with things they have to deal with. Like they don’t have a choice and therefore shouldn’t get credit for it. But you do have a choice and you can make it stop. I truly believe you can force yourself to stop caring if you so choose. You can let go of things and people and emotions. You can run away. You can become cold. You can choose to leave this world–emotionally or physically–and just make the pain stop. But it’s strong to keep feeling and it’s strong to push through to the other side of pain…whether it takes days or years.

Strength has nothing to do with the amount of pain you feel and everything to do with how you handle it. Strength is actively searching for that one flicker of light instead of just closing your eyes and embracing the darkness. Strength is moving forward. One day that might look like huge strides, the next it might only be getting out of bed. Strength is not about bottling things up and putting on a brave face for the world. It’s not about being perfect and happy and positive all the time. It’s about trying. Strength is being fearless and honest and raw. It’s strong to keep feeling things when it’d be so much easier to just turn it off and stop caring. It’s strong to be sensitive and forward and intense. Because in a world that’s constantly telling you what you should be feeling and when and to what extent, it’d be so much easier to just lose those things. It’s strong to be vulnerable and tell people how you feel, especially when the feelings aren’t reciprocated. And maybe you feel that way because those people need you to tell them how great they are. Maybe they need it more than you do and the world knows you can deal.

The fact that you’re even reading this means you woke up today and if you’re doing that in spite of pain right now, that is amazing. The fact that you’re reading something about being strong to possibly encourage yourself is amazing. Maybe you didn’t clean the house today or get that paper written, but you’re doing something for you right now and that is trying. Trying is strong. Maybe you didn’t play with your kids as much as you wanted to today. Or at all…because maybe you’re really depressed. But you fed them and you’re making sure they have a home and they love you for it. Taking care of other people when you feel too low to even take care of yourself is strong. So strong. Keep feeling. Feeling is what’s causing you pain, but it’s also what’s going to fix it. The only way out of pain is feeling excitement and happiness and love. You’re not where you’re supposed to be yet.

“Even when a bird walks, one feels it has wings.” – Antoine-Marin Lemierre