What Does it Mean to Be Strong?

Recently I admitted that I feel myself slipping. It’s always hard to admit something like that, or at least it is for me. I grew up watching my mother silently struggle to keep “all the balls in the air,” as she says. She managed the bills and still made sure that we had all the things that we not only needed but wanted as well. She managed working for my grandmother’s company while going to school and still being involved in all of our events…well most of them.

Even now, when she should be thinking about retirement, she went back to school to get her Master’s degree, while working two jobs, and somewhat recently added a Nerium partnership to her list of responsibilities. Plus, with the death of my grandfather, September before last, she’s also helping out with my grandmother’s ranch: taking care of cows and horses and exotic birds.

That’s a good many balls she’s got to keep in the air.

toomanyballsAnd she does all of these things without asking for too much outside help. Occasionally, when things get overwhelming, she asks family for help (Grandma or me or my brothers), but she almost never, as far back as I can remember, ever asks for help outside the family.

suckitupWhen things would get overwhelming for me while I was growing up, she would remind me to dry my eyes because we are women and we are strong and we don’t cry over things.

Since I’ve left home, I’ve learned that this is a bit backwards to the rest of the world, but in my family, to be a woman is to be strong. Being a woman means not showing weakness. It means that no matter how bad it gets, you just make do.

Of course, growing up with that mindset also means that I’ve got a lot of deep-seated issues that I’ve been trying to work through. If I’m honest with myself, it’s one of the reasons I started this blog: to figure out what’s wrong with me.

Some people get a psych degree. Some people talk to a person who has a psych degree.

I talk it out on the very public forum of the internet, hoping that there’s enough anonymity to not affect my job or my family relationships (hard since I know my mom subscribes to my blog).

And I think I do this because of the idea that to be strong means you don’t ask for help. You do it on your own.

You’re also not supposed to air your dirty laundry, but I need an objective opinion, and the comments from people who don’t know me often helps me with that.

clean-laundry-400Now, I’m beginning to wonder if this whole concept of figuring it out on my own isn’t a horrible idea. My roommate pointed out that I’ve been going on about the same problems for a long while now, and whatever I’m doing isn’t fixing it.

The worst part for me is that I know on some level what the problem is—all of the problems! I just don’t know how to make them better because there are so many, and the longer I go without fixing them, the bigger they become.

Fixing one requires me to tackle a second problem, and if I can’t fix either of those, it affects a third, and so on and so forth until I’m juggling six or seven major issues that seem to not have any solution.

I’ve got balls of my own to juggle… And I don’t know how to juggle.

can't juggle

To compound the issue, when I do ask for help, I come across one of two situations: 1)the person I’m asking compares me to herself and points out how her situation was worse and she was able to overcome it (usually all on her own without any help at all), or 2) he immediately starts trying to fix me by offering suggestions that I’ve already thought of.

The gendered pronouns were intentional as almost unanimously that is how it goes. My female friends almost always tell me about their problems and point out that they were able to get through it. This is meant to be encouraging, but as my personal anxiety grows, it becomes the opposite, making me feel like I’m a failure for not being able to handle it.


Meanwhile, my male friends inevitably start trying to find a solution to the problem, but generally they try to tackle one issue at a time (as one should) without realizing just how jumbled everything is. Normally, I’ve already considered the solution they offer and there is a definite problem with it as it affects a separate issue. So I start telling them the reason why said problem won’t work, and then I start to feel (again) like I’m a failure, or that they will begin to think I really enjoy being in this situation and just want to complain about it…


The Boy and I had a big fight about that. Multiple times.

One of the problems (as pointed out by the Boy and my roommate) is that I don’t always talk about what the problem actually is. The Boy noted that last year, when I fell apart, most people attributed it to him and our problems alone. That was never the case. The problems I was having with him were the only ones I thought I could solve, and thus to the outside world, I was dwelling on him alone. Admittedly, I was dwelling more than I should, but I was still looking at everything else.

But if, as one should, I were to take one problem at a time, I thought my problems with him were fixable, and therefore I sought to fix those, to give me a feeling of success so that I could go and tackle the others. The issues with him weren’t fixable at the time. They may yet not be fixable, but he and I have made much progress in our relationship (generic, not the romantic definition of the word), I think, and thus I am still speaking to him.

From an outside perspective, and probably because I was giving in to the depression, I was so focused on him that I wasn’t dealing with the Real issues I needed to work on. Like the job or the apartment situation. So, now that I’m talking to him again, while things are still not stable in either of those spheres of my life, my friends are really scared of a repeat.


The result is, I just don’t talk to them about what’s going on with him. Meaning sometimes, when I can’t be objective about a thing, and I need an outside opinion so I don’t blow up at him for something minor, I don’t get that. I have no one to ask if I’m being irrational. And the few people whom I have spoken to about it, still talk down about him because they are trying to keep me from repeating last year.

Or maybe he is just as big a dick as everyone likes to tell me… But I don’t believe that.


My roommate, on the other hand, pointed out that I don’t talk to her about what’s going on. She had to practically beg to get me to admit I don’t have a plan because everything is overwhelming me again. I’m having the anxiety to the point where I’m almost afraid to go to my job, and I don’t know how to overcome it. Everything in my being tells me to go running screaming the other direction. Maybe it was a mistake to take this job. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a teacher. Maybe I should go through a hard reboot  and ship myself to Abu Dhabi, where no one knows me and there are no judgments…

My roommate also pointed out that the only person keeping me from doing something like that is me… So maybe that’s what I should do.

My mother also tells me things like that: that I’m still young(ish) and I have no children, so what’s keeping me from traveling and going wherever I want?

The easy answer is money. It takes money to move, and it takes me not having an absolute ton of bills and no credit in order to save money in order to get to wherever it is that everyone seems to think I can just miraculously go. While I might not have a house payment or a car payment, I do have bills to pay. Like my student loan payments, and my storage unit, and my phone bill, and I do help out family and friends when I can… especially since they are helping me out at the moment. I feel like I should give back when I can.

The issue being that I will do it even when I can’t in order to keep up the appearance that I’m okay.

So, I guess that is the crux of the issue: I am not okay.

I am trying to embrace a new philosophy that I’ve kind of flirted with before, one that I’m stealing from (but giving the appropriate credit to) the young lady at Young &Twenty. I really enjoy some of her more interesting quotes, so when I found out about her project to get artists to create art to go with her quotes, I checked it out and came upon this gem:

strongenough“Strong enough to show my weak.”

That’s something worth aspiring to, I think. Instead of hiding it away, these last few weeks, I’ve been trying to embrace this idea and actually show my weakness to others. I’ve started with the Boy and my roommate, and now I’m taking it to the blog.

Next step is to actually find someone to help me through all this, someone who will not judge, and whom I can tell all my problems to.

One of my biggest issues is that I keep hoping to find a man who is willing to do that for me. Someone who is my partner, and therefore I’m not breaking the commandment of not “airing my dirty laundry,” but that sort of thing only works when one is already in a committed relationship. Relationships based on one person saving the other, or centered on a major life-changing issue don’t often succeed.

So here is me, trying something new. Here’s me showing my weak in order to be strong.

About Elizabeth

First and foremost I am a teacher. What I teach is a blend of grammatical art, literary love, and a smidge of spiritual awareness. My blog tries to combine the best of all three over a cup of tea.

4 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to Be Strong?

  1. I cant comment too much on your current situation, but i wanted to bring something up.

    You said women compare issues, while men try to fix them. We are, for the most part, wired that way. Women comisserate and listen. We also have the bad habit of trying to say, ‘this is how i got through this’. Like it helps or something. We come off with either arrogance or like we are trying to one-up the already shitty situation. Even if its not meant that way.

    Men are fixers. In a lot of situations, they try to take charge and mend the situation. Mostly because we expect them to be as a society.

    1. And I understand that; I do it, too, to a point, but at the moment, it just makes the anxiety worse. It’s the irrational part of the anxiety/depression cycle. It doesn’t make it any better that I know it’s irrational, just means that I choose to try to do it all on my own, which I’m trying really hard not to do anymore.

      There have always been one or two people that I’ve trusted with it, but it’s not getting better because I get a few steps out of the weeds and then start believing it’s all going to be okay, and start enjoying life again and the other stuff sits there festering while hiding in the back of my mind until something bad happens to make me see it all again, only the next time it’s bigger, and seems worse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s