Life lessons

Staying strong can be tough

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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?

Do share!

photo credit: Death – mother of all beauty via photopin (license)

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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  • dani @ sand has no home
    February 17, 2015 at 8:39 am

    It can so hard to stay strong! I have been dealing with my 2 years olds recent autism diagnosis, and have stayed strong, but after a week of exceptionally relentless sleep deprivation and horrible bureaucratic red tape, I am about ready to crack. All one can do is have a good cry and then pick yourself up again, because falling in a heap in not an option.
    Talking to someone makes all of the difference really, doesn’t it? It doesn’t pay to be always the strong one.
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  • dani @ sand has no home
    February 17, 2015 at 8:39 am

    It can so hard to stay strong! I have been dealing with my 2 years olds recent autism diagnosis, and have stayed strong, but after a week of exceptionally relentless sleep deprivation and horrible bureaucratic red tape, I am about ready to crack. All one can do is have a good cry and then pick yourself up again, because falling in a heap in not an option.
    Talking to someone makes all of the difference really, doesn’t it? It doesn’t pay to be always the strong one.
    dani @ sand has no home recently posted…The House of FlowersMy Profile

  • Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages
    February 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Staying strong is hard. Admitting defeat is even harder for me. I tend to push myself to the absolute limits before crashing hard and having to admit defeat. I think it is important to have someone to talk to, to constantly check in with, to help keep you balanced.
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  • Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages
    February 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Staying strong is hard. Admitting defeat is even harder for me. I tend to push myself to the absolute limits before crashing hard and having to admit defeat. I think it is important to have someone to talk to, to constantly check in with, to help keep you balanced.
    Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages recently posted…Painted PotsMy Profile

  • nabanita
    February 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    I know it’s tough to be the strong one…My parents think the same way about me..They worry about my sister while she is doing the same things that I did just a few years before her… And till date I’m not able to show them or talk to them when I break down…But I do that infront of my sister, she knows I’m not always strong and she is in many ways my therapist who helps me during those times…
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  • nabanita
    February 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    I know it’s tough to be the strong one…My parents think the same way about me..They worry about my sister while she is doing the same things that I did just a few years before her… And till date I’m not able to show them or talk to them when I break down…But I do that infront of my sister, she knows I’m not always strong and she is in many ways my therapist who helps me during those times…
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  • Amrita
    February 17, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I can identify with every word written here and it echoes my thoughts and current state perfectly! It was a ‘pleasant surprise’ to learn that anxiety, maladjustment etc. were typical of strong, high achieving, responsible, conscientious people and it made sense because, just like any other muscle, the brain too fatigues when we push it to the limits. Wish you strength in difficult times and all the best. Btw love you Instagram photos!
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  • Amrita
    February 17, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I can identify with every word written here and it echoes my thoughts and current state perfectly! It was a ‘pleasant surprise’ to learn that anxiety, maladjustment etc. were typical of strong, high achieving, responsible, conscientious people and it made sense because, just like any other muscle, the brain too fatigues when we push it to the limits. Wish you strength in difficult times and all the best. Btw love you Instagram photos!
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  • EssentiallyJess
    February 17, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I’m not the strong one, in the family, but I think we all are strong and therefore struggle to be real. I remember my dad arguing with me about me about having PND, because I looked too strong for him to see it; I would never show him the truth.
    It’s not easy at all being strong, in many ways, but then I wonder if real strength is actually admitting you’re not all that strong at all?
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  • EssentiallyJess
    February 17, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I’m not the strong one, in the family, but I think we all are strong and therefore struggle to be real. I remember my dad arguing with me about me about having PND, because I looked too strong for him to see it; I would never show him the truth.
    It’s not easy at all being strong, in many ways, but then I wonder if real strength is actually admitting you’re not all that strong at all?
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…Dear ABC… #IBOTMy Profile

  • Renee Wilson
    February 17, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Most definitely. Being strong can become a burden at times. You have to remind yourself to not be too hard on yourself. You are only human and it’s okay to have a cry sometimes. In fact, you need to sometimes. We can’t be strong all the time. I’m glad you’ve found a therapist who has been able to give you some clarity. #teamIBOT

  • Renee Wilson
    February 17, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Most definitely. Being strong can become a burden at times. You have to remind yourself to not be too hard on yourself. You are only human and it’s okay to have a cry sometimes. In fact, you need to sometimes. We can’t be strong all the time. I’m glad you’ve found a therapist who has been able to give you some clarity. #teamIBOT

  • Cathy Graham
    February 18, 2015 at 2:14 am

    I know strong types like you who look like they’ve got it all under control but the cracks do show up eventually. The problem is that everyone assumes they’re doing fine. I have a friend who just went through treatment for breast cancer and she is strong and stoic about it. Therefore she doesn’t get as much attention as a person who wails with despair about how hard it is. Not very fair how that works but it seems like the squeaky wheel gets oil. It’s great to be strong and go it alone but it’s also okay to admit that you find it hard sometimes and accept help and support. We’re all in this together.
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  • Cathy Graham
    February 18, 2015 at 2:14 am

    I know strong types like you who look like they’ve got it all under control but the cracks do show up eventually. The problem is that everyone assumes they’re doing fine. I have a friend who just went through treatment for breast cancer and she is strong and stoic about it. Therefore she doesn’t get as much attention as a person who wails with despair about how hard it is. Not very fair how that works but it seems like the squeaky wheel gets oil. It’s great to be strong and go it alone but it’s also okay to admit that you find it hard sometimes and accept help and support. We’re all in this together.
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  • Cyn K
    February 18, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Isn’t there a saying about how even strong trees learn to bend in the wind, otherwise they would break? That bending is your chance to cry, to make mistakes, to lean on others. It’s okay to bend or crack. You deserve others who love you enough to pick up any slack.
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  • Cyn K
    February 18, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Isn’t there a saying about how even strong trees learn to bend in the wind, otherwise they would break? That bending is your chance to cry, to make mistakes, to lean on others. It’s okay to bend or crack. You deserve others who love you enough to pick up any slack.
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  • venicerowe
    February 18, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Being strong for too long weakens you, sometimes. I have been through hard times where I had to be strong and couldn’t share with anyone what was going on. I held out somehow, had bouts of crying few times but held out. It was extremely emotionally, mentally and physically draining though.

    We, as humans, should just break down. Being strong inspite of the odds can take quite a toll. I feel that maybe it’s our pride or self-esteem that doesn’t let us let our guard down.

  • venicerowe
    February 18, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Being strong for too long weakens you, sometimes. I have been through hard times where I had to be strong and couldn’t share with anyone what was going on. I held out somehow, had bouts of crying few times but held out. It was extremely emotionally, mentally and physically draining though.

    We, as humans, should just break down. Being strong inspite of the odds can take quite a toll. I feel that maybe it’s our pride or self-esteem that doesn’t let us let our guard down.

  • elly stornebrink
    February 18, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I think it can be tough to stay strong, and not meant to be. I think it’s important to cry at times. What does holding on, being stoic do to our bodies, our mind, our health? So good that you were able to feel your feelings and be compassionate with yourself Sanch. That is true strength as well, to feel your feelings and know that you are both weak and strong, can cry when needed and not, when needed. Does that make sense? 😉 <3
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  • elly stornebrink
    February 18, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I think it can be tough to stay strong, and not meant to be. I think it’s important to cry at times. What does holding on, being stoic do to our bodies, our mind, our health? So good that you were able to feel your feelings and be compassionate with yourself Sanch. That is true strength as well, to feel your feelings and know that you are both weak and strong, can cry when needed and not, when needed. Does that make sense? 😉 <3
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  • Ashleigh - My Meow
    February 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    I think it can be REALLY hard and especially being in the caring professions. You are meant to have it all together. I worked as a social worker for ten years and then basically started to have panic attacks at work and went to see a psychologist. I had been going at a million miles an hour, working in a stressful job, competing in endurance events, studying and was so burnt out. I also had not been self caring for myself very much and had been seeing awful things every day as a social worker for almost ten years. I did not realise the long term effect this had on me until it was too late. I have recovered with mindfulness, meditation, yoga and taking time out from the front line but it was a hard slog. Also on paper it looks like I have everything, great marriage, job, apartment, health but inside I was crumbling. You have done the best thing and recognised it and now you won’t get to that stage again.

  • Ashleigh - My Meow
    February 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    I think it can be REALLY hard and especially being in the caring professions. You are meant to have it all together. I worked as a social worker for ten years and then basically started to have panic attacks at work and went to see a psychologist. I had been going at a million miles an hour, working in a stressful job, competing in endurance events, studying and was so burnt out. I also had not been self caring for myself very much and had been seeing awful things every day as a social worker for almost ten years. I did not realise the long term effect this had on me until it was too late. I have recovered with mindfulness, meditation, yoga and taking time out from the front line but it was a hard slog. Also on paper it looks like I have everything, great marriage, job, apartment, health but inside I was crumbling. You have done the best thing and recognised it and now you won’t get to that stage again.

  • Glasgowdragonfly
    February 18, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I too have a similar sibling situation and as eldest feel like I carry a lot of weight, masking deep insecurity and anxiety often. During my teenaged years I suffered in silence with panic attacks for years until eventually I sought some help, which turned out to be a successful course of CBT counselling. It still manifests from time to time, but thankfully is under control. It helps greatly to hear stories like yours to reassure me I’m not alone and everything will be ok.
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  • Glasgowdragonfly
    February 18, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I too have a similar sibling situation and as eldest feel like I carry a lot of weight, masking deep insecurity and anxiety often. During my teenaged years I suffered in silence with panic attacks for years until eventually I sought some help, which turned out to be a successful course of CBT counselling. It still manifests from time to time, but thankfully is under control. It helps greatly to hear stories like yours to reassure me I’m not alone and everything will be ok.
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  • Michelle Longo
    February 19, 2015 at 2:16 am

    As a fellow strong one, I totally get this. I learned I had to look out for myself because since others perceived me as strong, they weren’t worried about my ability to handle whatever and they weren’t going to check in as I may have liked. Good for your for find your way as well.
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  • Michelle Longo
    February 19, 2015 at 2:16 am

    As a fellow strong one, I totally get this. I learned I had to look out for myself because since others perceived me as strong, they weren’t worried about my ability to handle whatever and they weren’t going to check in as I may have liked. Good for your for find your way as well.
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  • Shailaja
    February 20, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Totally relate to this one, Sanch. Which is why I found it that much harder during my Depression phase.
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  • Shailaja
    February 20, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Totally relate to this one, Sanch. Which is why I found it that much harder during my Depression phase.
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  • Nancy Lowell
    February 20, 2015 at 3:23 am

    Often the pressures we put on ourselves far outweigh those put on us by others, and the more we take those on, the more we agree to those burdens. Life is so tricky! I’m glad you were strong enough to seek help and take care of yourself, that is the greatest show of strength!
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  • Nancy Lowell
    February 20, 2015 at 3:23 am

    Often the pressures we put on ourselves far outweigh those put on us by others, and the more we take those on, the more we agree to those burdens. Life is so tricky! I’m glad you were strong enough to seek help and take care of yourself, that is the greatest show of strength!
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  • Linda Tharp
    February 20, 2015 at 6:07 am

    It’s tough to always feel you need to be the strong one, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like a persona, a mask we wear for the benefit of others. And it becomes so very, very exhausting. Thank you for sharing.

  • Linda Tharp
    February 20, 2015 at 6:07 am

    It’s tough to always feel you need to be the strong one, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like a persona, a mask we wear for the benefit of others. And it becomes so very, very exhausting. Thank you for sharing.

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