“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” THEODORE ROOSEVELT
I came across the above quote while I was in high-school, and it has resonated in me ever since.
Since I began my journey through mental illness and recovery, this quote has come to mean even more to me.
I’ve had many people over the years tell me to just “cheer up,” or “think positive thoughts.” If only it were that easy. People who have never dealt with trauma will never understand the mental resilience it takes to get up after a fall again and again.
Unless you yourself are thrust into that position, how can you know?
Life is a challenge for everyone. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Life is fluid. It ebbs, and flows. Everyone deals with the routine, such as health issues, bills, jobs, families. Routine life can be enough to drag anyone down if you’re not careful.
For trauma survivors and mental health warriors, the routine flow of life can turn into a torrent impossible to survive.
If life becomes impossible to survive, how then do the survivors do it?
The simple answer is, because there is NO OTHER REASONABLE OPTION.
Reasonable is the keyword; because there is always other options. Self-harm comes to mind. Suicide. Drugs. Yes, options abound. But none of them seem reasonable, do they?
Survivors survive because they have the ability to keep getting up, one more time than they fall down. It’s not easy, it’s necessary.
Because of necessity, seemingly fragile survivors develop a fortitude that makes them mentally stronger than most. When life keeps putting them down, they bend, not buckle. They dust themselves off and get back to their feet. Battered and bruised they may be, but they stand to fight another day.
The man in the arena represents all trauma and mental illness survivors. They do what they have to do to survive time and time again. They have the courage to keep fighting when others turn and run.
I am the man in the arena. Are you?