Real Talk: Emotional Strength

Over the weekend, my cousin Neela was killed in a car accident. For all intents and purposes, she was my little sister – and the kindest, most loving young woman that I’ll ever know. We grew up under the same roof. I don’t have a single childhood memory without her. And I had the true honor of watching grow from a tiny baby, to a mischievous toddler, to a spunky little girl, and into a brilliant, independent woman. Part of my heart is missing, and will always be gone. I will miss her forever.

I never gave much thought about emotional strength.

Physical strength is obvious (and a downright necessity, when you have a toddler running around). Mental strength has always been a priority. I always wanted to be smarter, learn more, and back up my views with facts.

As such, physical and mental strength were attributes I worked on. I exercised (on and off), read novels and newspapers daily, and pushed myself on both fronts. Which may have involved a Barry’s Bootcamp class and reading the National Review.

All in the pursuit of growth.

But I was blissfully unaware of emotional strength, until a complete and utter meltdown last year.

It wasn’t pretty. And it left me raw, drained, and in need for a major change.

After a lot of reflection, one thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

Emotionally, I had the strength of a twig. I had never really faced failure. I’ve always had an incredible support system (parents, husband, in-laws). And I had never been emotionally challenged.

Postpartum depression was my first real emotional test – one that I faced with the help of exercise and medication to rebalance my neurotransmitters. But I had initially refused therapy in those early months. I didn’t think I needed it, and the thought of sitting and talking about my feelings felt…not me.

After my aforementioned revelation though, I decided to give it a try. And it was the best decision I made all of last year.

Therapy gave me a safe place to treat myself with compassion and kindness. It was my chance to open up about all the things that were bothering me – everything from my fears about my business to the fact that my hamper was overflowing and I was out of clean socks.

Most importantly, therapy gave me tools and exercises to build up my emotional strength. I learned how to calm my monkey mind, combine meditation with reflection, and treat myself kindly.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And my emotional strength won’t grow into a mighty tree overnight either.

This weekend was the first time my emotional strength was fully tested. It’s been the most difficult 48 hours of my life so far, and I’m still standing (though utterly heartbroken). I’ve taken time to withdraw and grieve. I focused on the random logistics for my family when I felt up to it. I cuddled my son – a lot. I hugged my family hard.

And I promptly made an appointment with my therapist.

Sometimes, the greatest strength is to admit you can’t do it alone. And to ask for help.

I’m going to need a lot of it.

Please call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them you love them. Not tomorrow, not next week – today. I wish I had one more chance to tell Neela how much I love her. And how much I miss her.

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