Reflection: Vulnerability

I love writing more when I’m vulnerable with those I’m sharing my thoughts with. I think it makes my writing better when it’s filled with genuine emotion and makes for a better read when those emotions are relatable.

As I’m writing this article this month, I am not feeling my best, mentally. I feel stressed and overwhelmed. I am battling so much grief, depression and anxiety. I know everyone struggles with emotions that often tend to weigh us down. I always will advocate for mental health. Feel your feelings, process and move forward.

Sometimes, moving forward is easier said than done.

July 7 marked one year since my big brother passed away. Aug. 13 is my dad’s birthday, and Sept. 3 is my mom’s birthday. There always will be those anniversaries and birthdays that are the hardest.

It is so difficult navigating the reminders of the ones we’ve lost. Grief looks different on everyone. Sometimes, grief can be paralyzing. And sometimes, grief can be a motivator. In both instances, grief is challenging. Grief, paired with everything else, also can be exhausting.

I recently moved home to Chicago. The overwhelming stress of packing and moving, paired with grief and depression building from preparing for my brother’s death anniversary put a toll on me. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. And I cried. And I cried. And I cried some more.

To be very transparent with those who enjoy the words I share, I had quite the meltdown. I felt alone in my pain, even with those around me who I know deep down love and support me.

In the moment, I was hurting more than I thought anyone else could understand. I didn’t feel the love and support, and I felt broken. I cried, and I yelled, and I threw things, and I wasn’t happy with myself.

After my meltdown though, I felt better. I needed to cry. I always have on my brave face every day. I put up a wall to protect myself, and sometimes, it can make me hard and cold. Most days, I’m numb and just trying to hold myself together.

I’m always worried about breaking, and so I’m always a little too strong. However, that’s just a mask. Deep down, I’m falling apart because I’m ignoring the bad feelings and just pretending to be OK, which only makes me feel worse. It’s OK to cry, no matter what others think.

Men, you aren’t weak if you cry. It doesn’t make you any less of a man. In my opinion, it makes you more of a man to feel your feelings and navigate them in a healthy way.

Women, you aren’t selfish if you cry. We hold a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. We focus more on taking care of everyone around us without taking care of ourselves. Sometimes, it might seem as though if we take just a second to feel that weight, if we take a second to let it out, we feel too self-centered. But that’s wrong. Crying makes you stronger, releasing tension as we add to our heavy load.

Everyone needs to take the time to feel their feelings. Take the time to be vulnerable with the ones you love and lean on them. Even when we feel alone, we are not, and we have to remind ourselves of this.

Rasharra Smith is a graduate student at the University of Dubuque.

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