It was Tuesday. I had had a rather difficult day and came home wanting nothing more than to be by myself and forget the past day. There was me, kicking off my shoes, slowly undressing, brushing my teeth in a tired haze and just about to crawl under my cozy sheets. That’s when my phone rang. The caller-ID told me it was a friend of mine – a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while.
Maybe I am a bad person for admitting this but my first instinct was to let it ring. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to my friend, I merely didn’t have the mental strength to do it right now. You know what I love about a sense of responsibility and obligation though? You can never turn it off.
So I did what I always do for that friend – listen. And this is where this delicate silver lining comes into play; Because you see, even as I am writing this, I am unsure of how to properly phrase this. Let me make one thing clear: I love being there for my friends. In fact, I pride myself in being someone they can depend on when they are having a rough time. That evening however, when we hung up after two hours of them unloading all of their feelings onto me, I felt even more drained than I had before. Being there for my friend put an even bigger mental strain on me… and that wasn’t the first time I had felt like that.
“I am strong, but I am tired (…), tired of always having to be the strong one, of always having to do the right thing.”Brenda Joyce, An Impossible Attraction
The problem is that I still do not know if I even have the grounds to bring this up or feel the way I do. Because a big part of friendships is being there for one another. Isn’t the whole point of a friendship to have someone with whom you can share your burdens with? Oftentimes however, I will be in friendships where the balance of doing so can be off. Some people will dump all of their problems onto me without a second thought. They unload everything, so much so that I start to feel overwhelmed. If I even attempt to do the same, they act like this is an abnormality. This to me shows that amongst some friends, there is a general expectation for me to always be the “strong one”. I think this mainly comes down to me not knowing how / being afraid to communicate that I need someone to lean on too.
Why is it that so many of us tend to fear expressing our emotions, especially the negative ones? Is it because that mask of being that strong, dependable person has become a habit? Have we become so used to being the support barrier, that we do not know how to let ourselves be the support case for once? Or does it come down to feeling that our problems will be an unnecessary burden to others?
It is like some friendships morph into a play of some sorts, where we both take up fixed roles. And in order to fulfill that role, I can’t break character. I am the strong one. The supportive one. The tough one. They however take on the role of the main character, the one that shows vulnerability and delivers heart-wrenching scenes. But what happens when you are left to navigate a scene solo? The answer of being the “strong one” suddenly doesn’t cut it when it comes to your own problems. There are times when you simply can’t suck it up and be done with it.
I have always been one to deal with my problems by myself and a lot of the time, this will work just fine. In a way, I tend to choose to suffer in silence, as opposed to letting someone in. Yet I feel as though the continuous internalization of my feelings has been getting to me lately. The truth is that I haven’t been in the best place this past month. In fact, I have been feeling – for the lack of a better description – really, really shitty. A lot more than I have been letting on to the majority of my friends.
Cracks are starting to show in my facade and I am so transfixed on patching them up that I keep doing that I do best – keeping everything in. So I continue playing my role while the build-up inside of me is slowly reaching a boiling point. I feel tired of continuously feeling that I have to act strong when in fact, I am at one of my weakest points.
Luckily I have a couple of special friends who have really been there for me in the last few weeks. They push me to confront my feelings more often and have shown me that my own problems are just as valid as theirs. They have created a safe space in which I feel as though I can come to them when I am in need of comfort. And maybe most of all, they have shown me that it is impossible to be strong all the time.