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I was 18 years old and housebound with juvenile rheumatism, fibromyalgia and ME/CFS when the planes hit the World Trade Center. And as we learned the survivor stories in the following months, I remember realizing, ‘I would have never been able to run down all those flights or stairs or through the nearby streets.’
It’s scary to come to understand that you may not be physically capable to escape dangerous situations or fight off harmful viruses. But living with chronic illness can make you feel vulnerable in all kinds of ways. You lose that natural trust in your body, not knowing if and how you’ll be able to function from day to day. Your bare body suddenly becomes a clinical object for doctors to examine from top to bottom.
And just when your heart is wide open, dealing with the raw emotions of getting diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, is when it’s easiest to get hurt even more. So many of us living with chronic illness lose friends, get judged by others or even medically gaslighted.
Experiencing that vulnerability, when your physical and emotional defense systems are already down because of chronic illness, can make you feel fearful, helpless, ashamed or rejected.
And yet, you can’t close yourself off and live life wholeheartedly at the same time. Sure, it feels safe to build walls around your heart, but those defenses work both ways. As Brené Brown describes in her bestseller ‘Daring Greatly’, you can’t keep painful emotions out and still let joy, gratitude and happiness in. You cannot experience deep love, support and belonging without opening up to others about how you’re truly feeling. And it’s hard to accept yourself and your new reality when you can’t be your authentic self around family and friends.
If you want to experience life fully, you need to be willing to take emotional risks.
Yes, please be selective with who you confide in and when. Not everyone deserves your trust and access to your most intimate thoughts. Don’t pour out your deepest feelings in supermarkets, waiting rooms or on the Internet. But don’t let the people who hurt you in the past take away your ability to make meaningful connections now. Because like Katherine Henson wisely said, having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.
So take a look at these 11 vulnerability quotes to give you the courage to open up (again).
What vulnerability quotes inspire you to open up again?
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