Monday, April 24, 2017

When Being Strong Breaks Us

I don’t know when it happened.  When did I begin to think I needed to always be the strong one?  When did I begin to think that I needed to take care of everyone?  Maybe it was my parents always telling me that I was responsible for taking care of my younger sister.  Maybe it was listening to my dad tell me how he worried that something would happen to him because my mom couldn’t take care of herself.  I remember promising him that I would take care of her.  Right after my eighteenth birthday, as I drove home the day my dad passed away, I remember holding the tears back because it would scare my mom and sister to see me cry.  Who would take care of them.  Each year that passed made me stronger but also hardened me to see people try to take advantage of three women alone.  Thirty-five years I have been strong taking care of my mother, sister, my father’s estate, my children, my career, lived through the ending of my twenty five year marriage and a ten year relationship which shattered my heart.
Suddenly I found myself in mid-life feeling so tired and exhausted of being strong.  Putting on a poker face and being a pillar for everyone else to lean on was becoming ever more difficult when I didn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.  Then one day every emotion and every tear that I had back to give others strength came gushing out.  There was no stopping or controlling it.  For the first time in my life I felt so weak and vulnerable.
I had been under immense stress from every direction. Business became demanding, relationships complained of the time the business were demanding, etc.  My emotions continue to spin out of control.  It was scary because I always considered myself to be so strong and in control all the time.  I did something that was very difficult for me, I asked my mother and sister for help.  This must have scared them too. It wasn’t a couple of weeks later that my mother asked me to turn over my father’s entire estate to my sister with the excuse that she wanted her to learn to become responsible (at 50?).  Once I put everything in her name she sold the properties, took the cash and they moved out of state without telling me.  My sister’s words still echo in my head “I always thought of you as being so strong”.  I felt so horrible for letting her down.  I desperately needed someone to be strong for me now.  To put their arms me and make me feel that I was going to be okay.  I needed to know that someone would have my back.  The second hardest thing I did was let my kids see this weak side of me as I could no longer control my emotions.  My son said, “You’re the strongest person that I know, you’ll get through this.”  I wanted to say “I didn’t choose to be strong, I didn’t have a choice.”  He made me promise that I would seek council.  The third hardest thing I’ve done; ask a total stranger for help.  They say everything happens for a reason.  I have always been a believer of this saying but I couldn’t see any reasoning behind the amount of pain and rejection I was feeling.  This pain and rejection led me to understand Who I Am & Why I Am Who I Am.  My therapy sessions began about the abrupt ending of my relationship by a text message and why I couldn’t seem to get past it.  I have always been strong enough to walk away from anyone who showed signed of not being interested in having me in their lives.  It turns out I was involved with a narcissist.  This explains the difficulty of moving on.  After doing much research and reading, my relationship was textbook.  I found it interesting that it turns out that most of the woman are usually well educated, strong women who were raised by narcissist mothers making them feel the need to be strong and take care of their parent always seeking a little of affection here and there, safety, approval, security, and hopefully love.  All the stories I read about women picking up the pieces either after a narcissist relationship or a narcissist mother were pretty much the same.  It’s amazing how all narcissist share the same characteristics. 
I grew up making excuses for the way my mother was or what she did.  Then the therapist asked me one question that put it all into perspective.  She put me in my mom’s place by using the same excuses I had used for her and asked, “Would you have done this to your child?” My immediate answer was an inequitable “NEVER!”, “Why not?” “Because it’s just wrong!” and I cried.  For the first time, it all became clear to me.  She went through the same questioning in regards to my last relationship.  She asked, “What do you miss the most about him?”  “His arms around me.” 

"Would they make you feel protected?"  "No, they haven't in years."  "Would they make you feel loved unconditionally?"  "No, he doesn't know how."  After hearing the words come out of my very own mouth, I couldn’t understand why I ever longed for his hug at all.  She explained, since I never received that hug from my parents,  I learned to settled for a hug that I hoped someday would represent real love, security, acceptance, and protection.


I am still getting to know myself.  I am still strong.  I am still a survivor.  I still cry at times.  I learned to stay away from negative people. I learned to say no.  Most importantly, I love myself first!