I have always been the strong one, the responsible one. The one capable of meeting situations head on and coming out stronger on the other side. This was probably why my parents felt comfortable to send me to a whole new country where I knew no one at the age of 21. On the other hand, they were quite worried about my sister’s ability to cope at 23 when she moved out and stayed with my uncle and his family.
I remember getting quite upset with my mum when she voiced her worries at my suggestion that my sister move out of uncle’s place. According to my mum, my sister would find it difficult having to study and cook, clean and shop for herself. It was then I had to remind my mum that I did that for 3 years — I studied, cooked, cleaned, and worked. However back then, no one seemed to worry about my ability to cope.
It might seem nice to be perceived as the responsible one. The one who can cope. The strong one.
But it’s not. It is a lot of pressure.
Because you see, being the strong one means I cannot crack. I feel guilty if I am sad. Or feel ashamed for worrying.
I spent years trying to cope, to wear that mask and not show the anxieties or sadness lurking underneath. I worried what the impact of showing it might be. Would my parents lose faith in me? Would I evoke concern? Or worse, pity? Would people think I was being ungrateful for having so much and yet, feeling sad or worried.
Of course, if you try to stay strong long enough, you will learn that you will eventually crack. And crack I did. Back in 2013, I broke. I finally went and sought some help for my anxiety and burn out. I remember telling my therapist then how I should be so grateful and happy for achieving my dream of having a life here in Australia. And yet, here I was struggling. Here I was feeling sad. No, I didn’t want to go back at any cost but my anxiety was certainly draining me back then.
She said, or rather asked, one thing: Why shouldn’t you? Why shouldn’t you feel sad? Why shouldn’t you feel anxious? Why can’t you feel this and be grateful at the same time?
It was that moment the lightbulb went off in my head.
It was OK to crack sometimes. It was OK to not be the strong one. It was OK to admit to not coping.
Since then, I have felt a lot better to have days when I don’t cope with things. More importantly, I am OK to admit that. I know I don’t have to always be the strong one. I know I have loved ones I can hand over the baton to.
I still feel a bit of pressure though when I am praised for being strong. I know what a slippery slope that can be.
Do you think it can be hard work staying strong?
How good are you with showing your cracks?
Until next time,