If there’s one thing I’m not scared of it’s being honest about life’s struggles, including showing a side of myself that others might regard as fragile.
Human character traits are fascinating to me and I think the more vulnerable parts of our personalities are more interesting in terms of discussion than the more desirable or socially acceptable parts; a shame it is, then, that people are so quick to cover up their weaknesses and either pretend that they don’t exist or that they are something to be shunned. In reality, they’re something that we all share and to sweep them under the carpet seems to do a dis-service to our fundamental makeup.
After my nervous breakdown I was referred to as ‘fragile’ by many people, all of whom were trying to help. They were pointing out the obvious but said it hesitantly, sympathetically and in hushed voices, as if they were revealing something about me that I wouldn’t want to hear. Some said I should ‘get help’ because I was so fragile. I found this intriguing because to me my fragility was both temporary and necessary; it was simply part of the process of having a nervous breakdown, an obstacle to get past with time. Although frustrating, it wasn’t an unpleasant state to be in and, in fact, was helpful to me; it was a momentary state of mind that was designed specifically to ensure that I had no choice but to rest, recover and rebuild. I therefore saw it as something positive under all the confusion and I appreciated the fact that my brain was taking the reins for a while and insisting that I stop.
Inevitably came a couple of nasty messages alongside the nice ones, ridiculing me for having a mental breakdown, telling me that at my age I should have my life sorted, shouldn’t be so weak, shouldn’t be affected by things that happened twenty years ago blah blah blah. It wasn’t nice to receive such words but, of course, it highlighted the main reason people cover up their fragility when they’re going through something traumatic: we have a very real fear what other people might say or think. We don’t like to be judged harshly. It’s no help, especially when we’re already feeling vulnerable.
Being fragile is part of being human, a moment of relative dysfunction in an otherwise normal state. There’s usually a very good reason behind it. It’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or to fear. The irony is that people are encouraged to open up and be themselves these days when, in reality, much of society is waiting to pounce and criticise us the moment we do. And that makes it difficult to share what’s really going on with each other. Which leads to expectation that we all try to live up to in public but struggle with horribly behind closed doors.
If you notice, when a celebrity loses control and cries during an interview, shouts at someone who’s shoving a camera in their face, gets drunk and rants on YouTube – things that everybody is capable of doing – the media focuses on that to emphasise flaws and weaknesses or to create an issue where there is none. It is never forgotten despite it being completely unrepresentative of that person 99.9% of the time and is brought up again and again at expense of an otherwise well-rounded personality. Showing weakness or fragility is unacceptable in a society that contradicts itself entirely by advising, ‘be yourself – but not if it doesn’t fit in with what we expect of you!’ People are quick to define a person based solely on that fleeting moment of imperfection, possibly because it makes them feel less flawed in themselves briefly.
The way I see it is that we have all kinds of emotions and behaviours that crop up over a lifetime for whatever reason. We make good choices and we make bad choices and those choices have consequences, good and bad. I would rather reveal the true nature of those highs and lows than to portray a flatline existence for fear of showing insecurities or supposed weaknesses, adhering to other people’s ideas of what being ‘normal’ or ‘in control’ should look like.
I can laugh at myself, embarrass myself, joke about myself and not be scared about showing an uncomfortable side of myself even at the worst of times because to embrace myself, warts and all, makes me human. And it makes me anything but fragile, even if fragility is what I display during those moments.