On writing as vulnerability: talking about the hard things

I was thinking the other day about vulnerability, and writing-as-vulnerability. Much of what I write here makes me feel exposed…vulnerable…unprotected. I have never been very good at being vulnerable, of exposing what is hurting, or even accepting that I am less than super human. I am always trying to do it all, be the best – whether at work or at home. I always have to be strong.

But that masks the real truth: I am just as soft and unsure and hurt as the rest of us. Brene Brown talks about the importance of vulnerability in her Netflix show, and writes about it in her books. She writes how we do not talk about “the hustle for worthiness that’s become such a part of our lives.” That has really resonated with me recently. A lot of my self-worth is tied to work success (which is obviously why I am writing this blog), and it is so entrenched that I do not even realise when it is doing damage. But more than that, my worthiness is tied to presenting myself as a strong, capable person. I avoid showing any weakness, even when it is damaging to my health.

One of the things I have never been good at doing is realising when I need to rest. Self-care is not one of my strengths. So I push through physical pain and tiredness, to achieve various goals. Yesterday, I rushed from place to place, collecting things for the new house, getting my hair done, meeting friends for brunch, planting seedlings on the allotment, pulling up staples from the floor boards. I did this even though I knew my period was imminent and I should have been taking it slowly. I persisted anyway. Last night and today, I am overcome with endometriosis pain. It is the kind of pain the requires hot water bottles, lying in a foetal position, painkillers and above all, sleep and rest.

Yet I feel ashamed because it means I am not at the new house, painting, fixing, organising. Preparing the house for moving in is important. But it is also not the end of the world if we end up painting around some of the furniture. But the shame persists – shame at not being able to get up, shame at not making myself move, shame at being weak and vulnerable.

Brown writes, “shame keeps worthiness away by convincing us that owning our stories will lead to people thinking less of us. Shame is all about fear.” It is a strange thing but admitting I have a chronic illness that I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with yet is shameful for me. It means admitting that I cannot do it all. And I am not quite sure how I feel about that.

Accepting that I have endometriosis means accepting that my life needs to change. It means actively reducing stress. Changing my diet. Figuring out if I can drink caffeine and alcohol. Resting enough. All the things that I am really really terrible at doing. All the things that are basic self-care.

But maybe writing about that fear is part of the healing process. Not bottling it up. Not keeping it hidden. Accepting that this is a challenge I live with. This space has become a place for me to be vulnerable, to be open, and to talk about the realities, difficulties, and (I hope) joys of moving from one type of life to another. Maybe this is a first step.

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