The Silence of Vulnerability
Adjective : exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally
There are some words that, when you say them, sound exactly like their definition, and for me vulnerability is one of them. Perhaps it is because we know what it means and stands for that we can “feel the word” or it just evokes memories of an uncomfortable time. I know people who will never admit to feeling vulnerable because they think “it is admitting defeat” or “that I couldn’t cope”.
So, my question is, does it help to admit to yourself that you are feeling vulnerable?
Does it help to say “yes I was scared” or “I felt that I couldn’t handle things”?
We read in the papers all the time of people in vulnerable situations who are unable to protect themselves against the horrific abuse that they suffer. It takes tremendous courage and strength to survive these situations and all respect goes out to anyone reading this that has asked for help and/or survived. This Blog is not about that degree of vulnerability but more about those of us who like to think we can “cope with anything life throws at us”.
For example, I was walking home one night from work and in the middle of the busy Great Western Road/Byres Road junction, my ears totally blocked and I could not hear a thing. My instinct kept me walking but when I got to the other side of the road I realised that I would need to walk the last part home in silence. I felt completely and utterly vulnerable and stood holding on to the railings of the Botanic Gardens, as I had realised that part of my route would be through some quieter roads. I made it home but the overwhelming desire to get straight into bed, pull the duvet over my head and stay there was huge. No one else around me knew I couldn’t hear, I wouldn’t have looked, or possibly acted, any different but the loss of that one sense immediately made a relatively fit, strong woman feel totally vulnerable and insecure. I am one of those people who most folk would look at and think “she could handle herself in a fight” but how many of us would admit that this is very often a front put up because the situation we are in makes us feel totally emotionally out of our depth, insecure about how we look or how we are going to cope, in other words, we feel vulnerable! As I said before there are so many of us who will just not admit to feeling vulnerable because it destroys that vision of outer confidence, that well-dressed suit of armour, perfectly made up with not a hair out-of-place but how often would it help for us to say “yes, please can you help me”. My ear problem turned out to be several weeks off work during which I had to admit that I felt totally vulnerable and went to stay with my Mum and Dad. Several times I had to ask for help or for someone to hold my hand and admitting this vulnerability has opened a few cans of worms emotionally and physically for me.
So, good thing or bad thing?
For me? Good, the vulnerability I felt not being able to physically walk from one side of the room to the other because of balance problems was terrifying so realising that being “strong and independent” is all well and good but sometimes we need to admit that we need help and that in itself makes us stronger. Admitting that there are still some issues I need to deal with was a big thing, they are all very easily sorted and will be in the New Year when I feel ready to reset my goals and targets but for now I need to learn to cope with hearing the world again, getting back into a normal routine and getting back out from under the duvet.
On one of the days when the lack of hearing was really getting to me, I made a list of all the things I have done that I considered to have been a vulnerable situation that I coped with. One of them happened several years ago when I found myself sitting alone on a beach on South Uist. I had taken my book with me and lost all track of time so when I realised that the sun was starting to set and it would shortly be dark, I started to pack up to go home. Just as I stood up I noticed the sky, it was stunning so I sat back down to watch it. Totally alone, no one around me, just the sound of the waves and the birds! I realised eventually that I was now sitting in darkness and could not see a thing, yet for some reason I felt secure. There was a big old moon up there that was lighting my way back to our holiday house and I made it safe and sound. When I remembered that day it dawned on me that our vulnerability is such a personal thing, some of which we share, some of which we hide so perhaps it is back to the old Gin or Gym theory of getting the balance right!
Time to look at the sky, hear the birds, take the time to acknowledge and set goals for new thinking and acceptance of vulnerabilities and how to ask for help.
Thank you to GymGuyMark for the use of this photo