A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I like this quote, which one of my aunt’s posted as a facebook status last night, and which inspired me to write this. I know a lot of really strong women, and they’ve gone through a lot of really hot water that has made them show that strength. A lot of my friends say I’m a strong woman too… and although my feeling is that I”m just playing with the hand I was dealt and living the best I can, I suppose if I were watching someone else walk my life I’d call them strong, so looking at it that way I guess I can agree that I’m strong.

A few weeks ago (I think that’s the timeline) a friend and I were discussing one of the photos I still have from my wedding with my ex husband.

The above photo is the one being discussed. It’s a (now deceased) family friend and I, who I used to be a parttime caregiver for. I would go to his house between college classes a couple days a week and make sure he had enough water, if he needed food I’d prepare it for him and give it to him, we’d sit and watch tv together, etc. The friend I was discussing it with commented that I looked really happy and healthy in the photo. I then mentioned that none of my diagnoses were made (other than the allergies I had at the time) until after that period in time. At that point she said something about how hard it must be to deal with all of it coming on so quickly… which led to me making the list of all of the diagnoses in the past 5 years that I’m about to share.

I was diagnosed with endo Nov. 2005, Fibro and my vulvar and vaginal issues in Dec. 2006, the bladder condition (IC/Interstitial Cystitis) in Jan. 2007, I was told I’d end up with lupus (due to already having signs, just not enough of the diagnostic criteria was met yet) in March or April 2007, and diagnosed with lupus tentatively in Nov. 2008, and positively in Dec. 2008.

That seems like a lot of hot water. I’d also like to say that I have had allergies since I was a child, I had asthma as a teen (which is now in remission and has been for the past 7 years almost, but is still certainly there under the surface) and I have dealt with becoming ill more easily than most for a long time (stupid autoimmune issues). Also – 4 miscarriages in 2ish years. That’s just the health and health related stuff too, it doesn’t include the stuff that has happened in my personal life (some messes I got myself into as a teen, some messes with my parents, sexual harassment (or was it abuse or somewhere in between? I don’t know how to define it, although marital rape is a good word for at least some of it) and verbal abuse from my ex, leaving my ex, and so on)…. but each thing has made me stronger. That’s part of why I say I wouldn’t change any of it. Oh there has been a lot of stuff I’d never want to go through again… but it’s made me.. well.. me. And it’s made me strong. The fact it’s made me strong and I know I can survive, and have more of a fighting spirit towards adversity than I ever expected is part of why I’m …. why I wouldn’t change it. I can’t say I’m glad to have gone through all of it, but I’m glad for how it has shaped me. That water has been very hot, but it’s also made me a stronger person, and in some ways (though I realize I can be very bitter) it’s made me a sweeter person as well, in that I am more compassionate towards others than I think I ever could have been without going through this stuff.

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