“You are so strong,” they say. “Stay strong,” they say. “I admire how strong you are,” they say. But am I?
Don’t get me wrong, I do not blame anybody who says this. When someone is upset, we all say the wrong things because at the time, the wrong things always sound so right. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve told people, “Everything will be okay,” thinking that’s all that can be said, but then turn around get annoyed when someone says that very same statement to me. Or how many times has someone told you to just “be happy”? As if you are intentionally choosing to feel miserable?
This year has been a rough one for me. I can easily say it’s been the hardest year of my entire life, but I’ll spare all those details. And it surprises me how many people comment on my posts or text me and tell me how strong I am. Especially people that I never speak with in person or see. I’ve been told by so many people that I am a strong woman, and maybe I am to an extent, but for some reason, I cringe at those appraisals.
I don’t like the assumption that I’ve been strong this whole time, or that I have to be strong. When I am overwhelmed, I seclude myself. I don’t text anybody, I don’t talk to anybody. I stay in my room, or go on long walks. I cry… a lot. To the point where sometimes I find myself screaming and squeezing the life out of my lifeless pillow. I listen to sad music. I overthink everything. Sometimes I feel like I need a hug, other times I do not want to be touched at all. I mainly vent to the trees (such a hippie thing to say), because who else will understand.
My point is, when I am overwhelmed, I don’t want to be strong. I genuinely want to be emotional, upset, and sensitive. I want to feel all of my feelings, and express every single one of them. I don’t want to fake a smile or be forced to be social. I want to be comfortable with that fact that I am not okay. And I will get strong on my own time and in my own way. Because being overwhelmed and hurt, is unpredictable. I don’t want to hear that I should just be strong, because then I’m made to feel that I’m overreacting, which makes such little sense considering that if I am reacting in such a “dramatic” way, I probably have every reason to.
I’ve learned not to tell people to stay strong. Instead, I use a different approach. I say, “I’m here for you.” Because I know how it feels to be broken down, and then be made to feel like it’s all on me to “get over it” and move on. When someone tells me they are there for me, I feel a sense of relief. I feel that I have someone to scream and punch pillows with me, even if they don’t fully understand why.
Maybe I am strong, because I take after my mother, and she is truly the strongest woman I know. I am not denying or undermining my strength. Every time I get knocked down, I come back stronger. I know this. But in the moment when I am at my weakest, do not tell me that I’m strong. Do not tell me what to be. Because I don’t want to be anything. I just want to be.