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Finding The Courage To Be Brave When I Feel Weak!

Updated on June 7, 2018
Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

Chronic illness warrior and natural health coach and advocate, Gina helps others thrive beyond the challenges of chronic illness.

Theodore Roosevelt quote

“The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasums, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Chronic illness Warrior...or Wimp?

It's been on my heart for a while now to write about courage and being brave.

For many years now I have been dealing with one chronic illness after another, until I was diagnosed with lupus with several years ago. There are days when I feel like giving up. There have been days when I wondered if being dead would not be better...for me and for my family who also had to deal with my illness....but I kept going back to my faith.

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:6).

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Chronic Illness Warrior.” However, I have to be honest with you.. There have been and are many days that I feel like a “Chronic Illness Wimp.” Nothing inside me screams “warrior!” When fatigue knocks you onto your butt for hours or even days, the last thing I think of myself is as a warrior.

Today, I prayed “Lord, help me not to be scared in spite of myself.” The Bible is full of verses that tell us to not be afraid.

God told Joshua as he stood ready to go into the Promised Land “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified…” (Joshua 1:9). I wonder if he ever felt more like a wimp than a warrior.

The good news is that we don’t have to come up with the strength to be that warrior, God will provide it. He reminds me of this on a daily basis. He can do it in spite of our fearful nature. I give my life and plan for my life over to God at the beginning and end of matter what has scared me during that day or the day before.

Jesus was afraid at times! Yes, he was!

Whenever I am feeling afraid or not so brave I am reminded of a man named Jesus. He was afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane,..... so afraid he asked for God to remove the burden of his fate, but also said that if it was his Father’s will, he would submit. There’s not much greater fear, I imagine, than that of being nailed to a cross to endure a suffocating (literally) death.

The pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now.

As I was researching some poems for this article, I found this one, and it struck me, so I decided to share it here:

“Laugh, even when you feel too sick or too worn out or tired.
Smile, even when you're trying not to cry and the tears are blurring your vision.
Sing, even when people stare at you and tell you your voice is crappy.
Trust, even when your heart begs you not to.
Twirl, even when your mind makes no sense of what you see.
Frolick, even when you are made fun of. Kiss, even when others are watching. Sleep, even when you're afraid of what the dreams might bring.
Run, even when it feels like you can't run any more.
And, always, remember, even when the memories pinch your heart. Because the pain of all your experience is what makes you the person you are now. And without your experience---you are an empty page, a blank notebook, a missing lyric. What makes you brave is your willingness to live through your terrible life and hold your head up high the next day. So don't live life in fear. Because you are stronger now, after all the crap has happened, than you ever were back before it started.”
Alysha Speer

What does chronic illness do?

“For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell. It’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” – James Baldwin

Chronic Illness leaves you lonely.

Chronic Illness leaves you fearful.

Chronic Illness makes you conflicted.

Chronic Illness makes you angry.

Chronic Illness makes you tired.

Chronic Illness makes you broke.

Stuart Scott quote

What exactly is bravery?

The definition of the word “brave” includes possessing or displaying courage, being able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching, and making a fine appearance.

I believe anyone who has dealt with the fears of a health crisis certainly has moments of bravery. But let us not forget that emotions are fragile at times; allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and let some emotions through is not only acceptable but a healthy coping tool. Tears do not signify a lack of bravery.

There are days when I wonder how much time I have left left and there are days where I am making plans for clear into my 90s. There are days when I am bouncing with joy constantly, and there are days when the tears won't stop. No one may see the tears that fall uncontrollably in the lonely moments at 3 AM. Brett Michaels’ Rock of Love show may have been a successful indulgence, but when he was fighting for his life, it was his daughter’s fear of growing up without him that “gave me this unsinkable strength,” he declared on Oprah on May 19, 2010. “It gave me this amazing courage to want to survive.”

Can faking bravery be enough to get us through?

Bravery can be a choice. Even if we do not feel courage, we can still seek to display it, we can attempt to face danger without flinching, and we can make a fine appearance. I do this on a regular basis. At the same time, let us not forget that we are human beings who were designed to feel fear, need affirmation and loving support, and shed tears.

For myself, this is intertwined with my faith in God and knowing when to surrender to the emotions and when to surrender them over. Finding the right balance between putting on a brave front, and being true to our own emotions is, I believe, one of the best coping tools we can discover for the journey of chronic illness.

Bravery comes in many forms, not all of them gallant or daunting tasks. Michael Douglas’ films list is likely not important to him at the moment. Despite side effects of treatment for stage-four cancer, he recently walked his daughter to school, reveling in the moment that he was able to do so and wanting to treasure the simple moments. His bravery came in venturing out into the public eye, where his appearance and strength could be observed and discussed.

There are many days when I don't feel like going out in public due to depression or being in pain, but I put my face on, throw on a cute outfit and I leave the house to go to the park or just to sit outside in nature.

Each of us must decide our own definition of bravery, and for those of us who know how much we suffer in silence, it may be as simple as making a fine appearance and then being our true selves around those we love and trust the most.

Let me get my lipstick on.....

The Chronic Illness Workbook

The Chronic Illness Workbook: Strategies and Solutions for Taking Back Your Life
The Chronic Illness Workbook: Strategies and Solutions for Taking Back Your Life
THE CHRONIC ILLNESS WORKBOOK brings clarity and order to what feels like an unmanageable and isolating experience. It shows both those who are ill and those who care for them how to live a full and meaningful life despite undeniable difficulties. Using her extensive experience with chronic illness patients, Patricia Fennell has created an original, comprehensive, research-validated approach that considers not only the physical aspects of chronic illness, but the psychological, social, and economic aspects as well.

Following my heart.

Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness is overwhelming. It can unleash a range of reactions, from shock to fear to grief, said Cheu, also a stress management consultant, Catholic deacon and a caregiver himself. The diagnosis can shatter your self-image, he said. It’s as though you draw a line in the sand, one side representing you before the diagnosis, the other side representing you after.

Although any illness can trigger depressed feelings, the risk of chronic illness and depression increases with the severity of the illness and the level of life disruption it causes.

However, while chronic illness changes your life, it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying it. I was newly diagnosed when I collapsed, and was rushed to the ER where I was told that some medications had caused me to go into near cardiac arrest. I made a determined effort that day to come off as much of the medications as possible, and began a journey where I was healing my body of inflammation using natural remedies such as herbs and essential oils. I became even more determined to be around for my children and to live an even more fulfilling life.

Recently I was given the opportunity to become a designer using my own artwork. It is something that I have dreamt about for over 15 years, and I jumped on the opportunity.

Persevering in the face of adversity.

A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer. — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them — Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924)

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. — Mary Anne Radmacher

“Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

“It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.” — Mark Twain

Expanding my horizons.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. — Lord Chesterfield

“This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.” ― Robert F. Kennedy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. — Anais Nin

Facing suffering with dignity and faith

“There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a man has the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” — Frank

The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances. — Aristotle

Until the day of his death, no man can be sure of his courage. — Jean Anoulh

A man of courage is also full of faith. — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Gabrielle Davis

Having a hero.

Everyone needs a hero! Pick a hero who inspires you to keep going, someone who’s overcome major hurdles but is living life to the fullest. One of those person's for me is Gabrielle Davis, fellow Lupus Warrior and Administrator of the Facebook Page, and non-profit organization, Lupus Sistas, an organization that was created to help:
- provide a warehouse of information that goes past reiterating statistics and provides the latest information on treatments and resources that pertain to black women with Lupus.
- create a support network that connects black women with Lupus.

Nicholas, Gabrielle and myself

I overcome loneliness.

Happiness starts within, and the best relationships happen when you are at peace with yourself regardless of your present condition or circumstances. I choose activities that I find restorative and that bring me joy, such as praying, spending time outdoors, reading or playing music, painting and doing martial arts. I also love to cook, so on days when I have a lot of energy, I cook meals for several days.

I cultivate spirituality.

My faith is very important to me, and very important coping mechanism used in my daily fight against chronic illness. I also realize the importance of gratitude, and showing appreciation for caregivers such as my doctors, as well as my family and friends who help out in various ways.

Every day is a special occasion, and I do not take it for granted. I thank God each morning for giving me the opportunity to open two gifts: my eyes! I know what a privilege and a blessing it is.

In conclusion....

Today if you have chronic illness, I’m pretty sure you performed several acts of everyday bravery too. Take time to notice what you did. Notice that you achieved something, no matter how small.

I like to think of my like as a movie, and as the screenwriter for the rest of the movie, my goal is to create an outcome that makes everything that I, as the main character, go through completely worth it.

With that goal in mind, your next question is, what outcome would make everything you’ve gone through and everything you will go through worth it – beyond any shadow of a doubt?

Remember that you’re doing something brave everyday…just by living with chronic illness. You are amazing. At the end of it all, others will look back at the legacy you have left behind, and will cherish the moments they had with you, the lessons they learned from your journey, and your ability to overcome the challenges that you face everyday.

At least, I hope and pray everyday that I will leave just a snippet of that being brave in the face of chronic illness.

Life with chronic illness

© 2016 Gina Welds


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