Sometimes we have to listen to the voice within and let it be heard; it’s a part of us after all. I did that last night, I was the lowest I’ve been in many many months and I felt myself slip into the gap between here and there, feeling no life within me and questioning my desire to carry on breathing. For a fleeting moment – that felt like an eternity – I didn’t want to be here anymore; I had nothing left.

Writing about pain is unquestionably easier than swirling uncontrollably in a deep pit of it. Admitting one’s vulnerability and owning all of one’s cracks and blemishes can be excruciating as there’s nowhere to hide in the mirror to the soul. Of course, we can try to distract ourselves and try not to look, but the truth has an irritating habit of not going away quietly.

As I tumbled into the pain within my heart and soul, I took a deep breath and stopped clinging on so tightly, I then took another deep breath, lifted up my arms and dived head-first into the turmoil. It felt strangely liberating to dive into the pain as it’s something we’re trained to instinctively resist as a survival strategy.

In truth, I resisted the pain within for years. As a result, I was unable to touch it, feel it or articulate it. I found out the hard way that resistance is futile. I spent years stuffing pain deeper and deeper within as it created layer after layer of detritus. As the depth of the layers grew, the pressure created a solid barrier akin to sediments slowly turning to rock. I was no longer able to reach the pain and I numbed to it. When I went through my year of breakthrough, those layers smashed apart as though a wrecking ball had hit me hard in the solar plexus and sent me spinning into a new dimension in eternity. I shattered and entered a kind of spiritual oblivion but I re-emerged renewed and re-connected to my core. I had to want to re-emerge though, that was crucial.

On the whole, I feel much stronger these days but when I feel myself falling, which, as last night shows, still happens fairly frequently, I no longer try to build walls to protect myself, I let go instead. When I look within, the pain and grief have etched deep engravings on my heart and soul, but those scars are a part of me, they enhance and enrich the tapestry of my life because they are a part of my life. An unblemished masterpiece shows no depth and no richness.

During my chapter of breakthrough, when the doors to my self-created prison burst open, I felt exquisitely vulnerable and exposed. Instinct told me to run, to fight and to resist, but I couldn’t as I’d reached a point of exhaustion: I had nothing left. Although I wriggled, fought and struggled like mad, I got nowhere. In the end I was forced into a point of breakthrough but instead of being the catastrophe I thought it would be, it allowed me to be wholeheartedly me for the first time ever. These days I don’t resist, and I allow the natural ebb and flow of my soul and my emotions to run free.

So, when I listened to that small, quiet voice within me last night, I didn’t fight, instead I listened to it, loved it, went into the pain and stayed with it. I allowed it to have a voice rather than trying to ignore or dismiss it, hoping it would go away. This wasn’t wallowing, it was consciously facing my ‘what is’ in that moment exactly as it was. That part of me needed to be heard and I willingly gave it a voice.

Courage comes in all shapes and sizes, and for me, it comes from my willingness to breathe deeply into my pain and choose to carry on. Courage isn’t always about standing up, fighting and ‘roaring’. Putting these words onto paper and then posting them on this blog has taken more courage than I ever thought possible. After all, in this perfection-seeking world, admitting one’s frailties means acknowledging one’s imperfections out loud. It’s one thing admitting these to myself but quite another sharing it with anyone who may happen upon these words.

Maybe it’s shame or embarrassment, but more likely it’s a feeling of not being the ‘smiley, happy, holding-it-all-together-Sarah’ I like to believe myself to be. Of course, 99% of the time (okay, maybe 98%!), I am content, but when life gets too much, I acknowledge it and allow the experience to flow freely. This is my path to wholeness as it allows me to be me.

Some may feel that even the occasional re-appearance of such exquisite pain and fragility is a sign of imbalance (and it is) but I’m human and life isn’t clear cut or black and white. Much of the time I live in the shades of grey and blurred lines of doing the best I can in any given moment.

Most days I smile and push on through the pain and dysfunction. Stoicism has its drawbacks of course but ask anyone living with a long-term chronic condition and they’ll be wearing their smile well, covering over the cracks in the pavement of their lives, keeping the pain relatively well hidden behind the closed curtains of everyday life.

For me, acknowledging my moments of fragility and allowing myself to be present in them is important as it reminds me I’m alive and still human. These moments are opportunities for me to get ever closer to my core and to be fully in touch with myself. They are not a time for being with others, they are a time for being wholly and completely with myself. So, ‘courage doesn’t always roar’, for me, courage is acknowledging my vulnerability, giving it a voice and embracing my imperfections as valid and precious facets of my being…

‘Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ Mary Anne Radmacher