why stalwart is good

stalwart – loyal, staunch, reliable, hardworking and committed

I want to be stalwart. It seems like a good quality to have. I’ve got the fiercely loyal part down. If we’re friends, I’m team you all the way, at least in my thoughts. Out in the world, it’s sometimes different. I struggle with the hard-working and committed part, not because I don’t want to be those things but because it’s hard to be physically present when you struggle with leaving the bed or doing anything marginally productive.

To be stalwart is akin to having resilience, I think, a quality that’s received a lot of press of late. Resiliency is apparently a very desirable behavioural pattern. It’s an ideal we’re supposed to embrace and a quality we’re supposed to enjoy. Your resiliency is a measure of your bounce-back and your toughness.

I used to have it. Once upon a time, I was stalwart and resilient – at least I think I was. I used to get things done in the BB years (before breakdown). Of course, my memories may be a little coloured by my need for it to be so. I’m not the most accurate at evaluating myself. I used to describe myself as strapping, an adjective that suited the eating disorder coloured view I had of myself but was rather far removed from reality and other people’s perceptions of me. I discovered this fact when I described myself thusly and was greeted with laughter.

So, strapping I’m not but stalwart I used to be. I’m having trouble now with the how. I think my game plan for being stalwart got lost in my fatigue.

Fatigue is the bitchiest part of mental illness, as far as I’m concerned, and it goes beyond the “too tired to get up and get on with the day.” It’s the mental fatigue that gets you and that’s where so many of us need a little help.

It’s tiring to face the same battles every day. They are unrelenting. Mental illnesses have stalwart and resilient down. They are committed to battling you. They are steadfast and determined. Sometimes, my mental illnesses feel like the terminator – they’re out there, they can’t be bargained with, they can’t be reasoned with, they don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and they absolutely will not stop, ever, until I’m dead.

This is, of course, a very dim and dramatic view but some mornings I feel that way. Sometimes, when I’m faced with doing the same things over and over again in an effort to feel better when I have the same conversations with myself and I still face the same problems, I wonder if they can be beaten or if the battle is doomed to be cyclical and to run on forever.

Battle fatigue sets in when the adversary never sleeps.

It’s why I decided that I need to be stalwart. The word is a good one. I like it more than resilient. It conjures up for me an image of a valiant knight, fighting with sword drawn against a dreadful foe. I need that kind of attitude. I need to be determined in the face of a persistent and merciless opponent. I need to ignore what the unhelpful thoughts are telling me and stay the course.

I’m not going to lie, it’s challenging. Facing the same battles every day requires courage. Not giving up requires commitment. Fighting back is hard. The quality of being stalwart seems to be one that would give me a leg up in the battle. So how does one get it?

I think it’s like most things – less thinking and more doing. More “one foot in front of the other” even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard. It’s undertaking self-care, so you have the mental and physical resources to stay in the game. It’s recognizing that we deserve to have someone fighting for us with the same passion we’d use to fight for others. It’s believing that we are valuable enough to try.

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