But First I Will Make You Strong

Updated: Aug 31




Medical trauma hijacks life leaving you to ruminate. Divergently we handle situations by different methodologies befitting our predicament. It’s evident when you come across stories about post-stroke recovery. Likewise seeing pictures on social media filled with people making strides with physical therapy, some write, others exercising, and the majority finding fun with distractions or discovering a hidden talent. Together we are a community or as I like to say a family of stroke survivors. We strive to bring a smile, inspire, share our stories, and become strong individually and stronger together. 

“You’re gonna be happy, ‘Said life, ‘But first I’ll make you strong”-Unknown.”. This is one of the most powerful quotes that I have stumbled across.  Strength is not a singular piece, rather different fragments that can be procured when you are ready to say to yourself, “It’s time for war”. When your trauma happened, you were reborn. Physical strength is instinctive because it’s required. Mental strength is different.  Emotionally we are raw, trying to steer from one obstacle to the next. First comes the consciousness of what came took place. After digesting the news, you have a moment of disbelief and you don’t know what to do with the information. Second, after you absorb the gravity of your situation the emotions will either come immediately or be pushed to the side. We are different on how we process the magnitude of information. If you are given news that you need invasive surgery, or lost cognitive and mobility function, the fight or flight response is set in motion. It’s naturally intrinsic that we go into fight mode.  Let’s face it, we don’t have a choice in the matter and to get ourselves out of the hospital requires performance. So, you will do all the neurological tests as if you were taking the SAT or ACT test. When the physical therapist comes through the door asking if you want to walk, you get up and comply despite your feeling of disengaging and retreating to your hospital bed. You do it because it’s required. You tell yourself the number one goal is to hightail it out the hospital. Thereupon you siphon all of your strength to bulldoze everything. You are strong.


To me, strength in its true form is quantified by your emotions in the spotlight or isolated. This is a challenging plight. Conceivably, conquering this aspect, is fundamental to strength. It’s complicated because previously your attention was focused on gathering the physical strength. Once home, emotions will begin to surface. Some immediately and for others it can take time. First, you need to pray to anyone that you believe in and thank them for giving you a second chance at life. You are going to feel vulnerable, alone, sorrowful, enraged and blubbering. How you handle these emotions is strenuous. It’s going to torment you because they come in waves and sometimes it will propel you into the ocean. It is pivotal to acknowledge and process every emotion that flows in order to transform it into strength. It’s okay to cry, shout, feel defeated and that life will never be the same. It’s impeding to close off your emotions by removing them from your thoughts.


There is a certain stigma around emotions. You might feel weak to express them, or guilty. You may feel like it’s a burden for others to handle, or people will think you aren’t ready to stand in this world now. With its stigma, it’s like a silencer placed on your mouth, your tears, your thoughts. The quandary with that, is the repercussion that will you grow weak as you hide behind a smile or say I’m great. There will be days that statement is true, but others not. Who are these people that squelch our feelings? Is it even a true statement? Have we encountered someone that said don’t feel, it’s weak? I ruminate that it’s our own selves telling us that it’s not right. It’s been ingrained in our heads of heroes, warriors and powerful people, as they pump their fist in the air and lead their people to fight. This is what strength looks like. Not the person sitting on their sofa with their hands wrapped around their head, with tears streaming down. Yet, the power is rising within you after that emotion has passed and you press forward with life. 


You see, strength draws from several areas. It’s not defined nor limited. Your identity is not your medical trauma, life problems, or other hindrance that supervenes. If you allow it to define you, you won’t reach your full potential, and instead of saving yourself from hanging off a cliff, your hands will slowly let go. Remember you are defined by your strength and fight. Understand that people will view you for that alone. Not your circumstance, but how you write your story. The emotions, that’s honest. People trust honesty. However, don’t draw your map with recovery based on other people. You are number one. Your health is number one and breaking down all barriers, is the most therapeutic and healthy way to approach the road to success. You can look at other road maps for guidance but define your own.


Look in the mirror and take a hard look at yourself. Tell yourself you will be happy, but first you need to be strong. The hard work is on you. Again, don’t look at other people and their journey and compare yourself to others. You might see someone beaming with happiness and feel inept because you aren’t there yet. You don’t know their story. You don’t know how they got there. Comparison is dangerous in any circumstance. How you approach your recovery is in your journey.


Personally, in my exploration I initially thought I had strength in the beginning, but, was my body doing all the work. Yes, I had to be positive because I could not exert any energy at that point except pure survival. I broke several times in the hospital after surgeries were completed because I was baffled, and in awe over what the hell happened. After all the chaos starts to dissipate, my emotions were at full throttle. I didn’t want to be that person who ignored their feelings crawling out. I screamed, I cried, I cursed the whole world, I questioned myself, I thought about life in different way. It had to come out. My inner self said that if I don’t acknowledge and let it rise, I will become a shell. My strength and happiness could not be based on survival and delusion.


Not only did I speak candidly to people about my experience or how I was feeling, I took pause with silence too. It was an elegant silence that covered me like cashmere. It was silence from my thoughts by immersing myself into music, because music heightens my emotions. For the past decade, Hans Zimmer, the composer, has helped channel my feelings into something magical. I turned to his music, because I needed that peace with every violin, drum, and other instruments that harmonized together with a special craft of intensity. I closed my eyes and whatever I was feeling surfaced. There is no magic pill that can compare to music. 


Not only did I channel my feelings through music, but it was felt by the sound of the wind chimes on the back porch. The birds chirping in the morning and the insects at night communicating. The smell of fresh cut grass, the echo of the creek flowing. Looking at my surroundings, and looking at every crack on the sidewalk, the trees swaying back and forth. The flowers that have bloomed and carefully taken care of. It’s auditory and visually liberating. That’s where I draw upon more strength and soon the smile takes shape on my face. 


I had to become strong first, before I could be happy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I understand its critical weight. I haven’t come full circle in this moment. I still have a lot of work to do on myself, but I feel happier and stronger than before. I’m not ashamed to admit that there are days that I feel lost, incomplete, helpless and stuck. I am smart enough to know that I am strong, and it will pass but only if I let it. I recently admitted that there are some emotions that I can’t fix on my own. PTSD has taken over lately leaving me crippled.  I acknowledge that I need outside help and I’m not ashamed. I want to understand why it comes in waves. My theory is when things are too good, you anticipate for something to fall. Perhaps all the work I’ve done alone and the strides I’ve made, have been sabotaged with anticipation. 


Life is too short. It might seem like an eternity for others, but for me, I feel like we are robbed. It takes time to fully appreciate life, or if given a second chance at life to do something. Time is limited and no matter how much you want to think there is a miracle, time will end. So, whatever predicament you are in, remember once you are strong, you will be happy. Make the most of life. However, you choose to seek that strength is up to you. Never feel ashamed of your path or feelings. 

I leave you with a song, that I listen to often from Sia titled “Saved my life”. 

Boom, boom, boom Beats my heart, heart, heart Baby boom, boom, boom In the dark, dark, dark Baby boom, boom, boom Fall apart, part, part Baby boom, boom, boom From the start, start, start

But I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you Yeah, I've been waiting for you

Well someone must have sent you here to save my life Someone must have sent you to save me tonight I know that in darkness I have found my light I know that in darkness I've been given sight In your loving arms I feel delight In your loving arms I'll be alright Someone must have sent you to save me tonight Someone must have sent you here to save my life

Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life

High, high, high We take flight, flight, flight Baby high, high, high Touch the sky, sky, sky Baby high, high, high Diamond nights, nights, nights Baby, high, high, high 'Cause love don't lie, lie, lie

I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you I've been waiting for you

Well someone must have sent you here to save my life Someone must have sent you to save me tonight I know that in darkness I have found my light I know that in darkness I've been given sight In your loving arms I feel delight In your loving arms I'll be alright Someone must have sent you to save me tonight Someone must have sent you here to save my life

Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life

Save my life, save my life Save my life (someone must have sent you here to) Save my life, save my life Save my life, save my life You saved my life

Click to listen to it- it's powerful. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VetyZO-3Ikk

Also, my favorite Hans Zimmer that gives me peace, “Time” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxabLA7UQ9k



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