The Struggle Is Real

#thestruggleisreal

I love this phrase. I really do. I love that we use it ironically, to dramatize a real life situation that is likely, in-fact, not a true struggle. It has a sarcastic “first world problems” feel which I appreciate because I speak fluent sarcasm.

But in reality, “the struggle,” our daily life struggles, those are real. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled. I’ve struggled with anxiety, letting irrational fears steal my attention and deprive me of my presence. I’ve struggled with my kids, questioning with every decision if I am raising a future psychopath or a future POTUS. I’ve struggled knowing my risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer is 60-80% due to the BRCA1 gene mutation. I’ve struggled with my parents getting older. In fact, I believe that one of the hardest parts about growing up, the one that people fail to tell you about, is having to parent your own parents.

These struggles have all been real. Ironically, we don’t share the real struggles. Yet, those are the struggles that people can relate to. So, I can’t help but wonder, why don’t we share them?

Maybe it’s because we’re a generation born from Catholic baby boomers who perfected the art of pushing problems under the rug and were raised by a society of social media addicts who fear their “friends” may see the real them. A bit harsh, I'll admit, but true.

Or maybe we don’t share the real struggles because it takes vulnerability. And that is hard. It is often easier to build up walls than it is to show our true selves. And sometimes, I believe, we convince ourselves that people don’t want to hear about our issues, our baggage, our problems. Why would I tell somebody about my anxiety when it would be easier to talk about how my adorable son started kindergarten last week. The thing is, I doubt my co-workers give a shit that my son, just like every other 5 year old in the city, started school last week. But, I guarantee a friend, co-worker, or a relative would care about my anxiety especially if he or she was also experiencing it. I believe it is our imperfections, not our perfections, that bond us.

Can you imagine how much closer we would all be if we were able to experience our struggles together, instead of alone?

For example, recently, a good friend opened up to me about her Seasonal Affective Disorder and the various medication she has tried. I was immediately flooded with relief! I wasn’t the only person taking medication to help fight anxiety/depression! Of course I knew other people took meds to help with depression or anxiety. In fact, 10% of the US population is on an antidepressant. It is the 3rd most commonly taken medication in the US. But when you take a medication like this, it is easy to feel ashamed and alone. But, alas, I wasn’t! I had a friend to go through this with. When my friend and I are together, we don’t talk always talk about our anxiety and depression. But we do have a deeper understanding of each other and our struggles, and I know if a day comes that I need to talk about it, she will listen. Instead of feeling ashamed and alone, I now feel proud of myself for making an important decision to improve my life.

I have another good friend who I have known since we were babies in college. We spent some formative years together and I know her better than I know most. We coincidentally had our babies within days of each other, which was a bonding experience in itself.  She is one of the rare few who opening up to is easy. Recently, she vented to me about the difficulty of getting up with a newborn several times a night and the help (or lack there of) that her husband provided. Now this was something I could relate to. This is a struggle I have faced. We shared stories about the dark times. The really dark times. She admitted to me that in her darkest hour, she not only told her husband that she was going to “off him” but went into quite a bit of detail about how. Alas, I wasn’t alone!! I’ll admit I had never taken it that far but I got it.  (This is the same friend whose son I watched poop on the driveway not too long ago. I would have helped her clean it up, but I was busy taking pictures.) Needless to say, we share the same struggles. We get each other. Because we have similar struggles and because we share them with each other, we no longer feel ashamed (even when we probably should).

Because, you know what, the struggle is real. This shit isn’t easy. There are times we want to off our husbands because we are tired and delirious and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And, even if there was one, we couldn’t be completely sure it wasn’t a freight train.

Anxiety is a real struggle. Depression is a real struggle. Kids can be a struggle. Husbands can be a struggle. The greatest blessings in the world are sometimes a struggle. But they are real and it’s okay to talk about it. It’s better to talk about it.

My sisters and I are able to share our struggles. We talk openly about our daily struggles like our dandruff and our wrinkles. We talk about our fears for our children and our hopes for our future. We hope that our memoir, Nipples Optional, will encourage women to speak up and take action. We hope that by being vocal about our struggles and embracing the challenges we face, we will build strong connection with each other. These strong connections will make women feel not quite as alone, a little more normal, and empowered to take the necessary steps to help themselves and the people they love. This isn’t easy and we get that. But together we can do it. We must advocate for ourselves and for the people we love.

To the woman out there struggling, you are not alone. I see you. I am you. And we can get through this together.

Maureen BoesenAnxiety, BRCA1