I’m tired of being strong

“You’re so strong!”

I have already lost count of how many times I heard someone I just knew say these words to me, especially after learning what I’ve been through in life and how I continue to thrive despite my past. Though it’s somehow flattering, it also freaks me out. To me, it can be a sign that there’s one more individual expecting a lot from me.

I am tired of being strong. I’m so sick of being the reliable one. If possible, I’d just live my life like a potato. I would do nothing. I would not allow anything or anyone to pressure me. I would always take my time until somebody turns me into chips.

Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t seem to have any plans to do all these things. Even though I have all the reasons to be weak and unreliable now, it still urges me to be in panic mode: Fight or flight. Always be several steps ahead. Don’t slow down. Or else.

No wonder, I overthink a lot of things, including some little stuff that doesn’t have to be given so much thought in the first place. I worry about how people think of me, even in situations in which other parties involved will most likely not pay attention to me.

Inside my head, there’s an image of me I need to live up to. That person? Well, she doesn’t make any mistakes. She doesn’t waste other people’s time. She doesn’t even let her time go to waste. She doesn’t show any sign of weakness. She never quits. She always thinks in advance, so she’s never caught off guard. She’s always prepared. Nothing scares her.

But of course, that person is far from who I really am.

Whenever I see a discrepancy between the two persons, I end up feeling bad. And I worry because I feel like I am not doing enough and it’s only a matter of time before I suffer again due to my misgivings. Before I know it, I am already drowning in my anxiousness.

It hasn’t been long since I first made the connection between the fact that I’ve been known as “the strong one” and the anxiousness I always feel. It hadn’t occurred to me until I started therapy last week.

During our session, the therapist asked me about my past. I told him about how my younger self had been deprived of so many things, including food and money. While detailing the graveness of my deprivation, it occurred to me that poverty and hunger molded me into the worrier I am today.

When I was a child, I would often worry whether there’d be food on the table the next day and if we’d have enough cash to buy some stuff needed for school.

In college, I was always anxious about not having enough money for food and transportation. There were even days when my mother would let me leave home with insufficient allowance, which I would use to get to the university. Once on campus, I would ask my friends if they could lend me some cash so I could eat and pay for my fare going home.

Days as such were the worst, mainly because of how helpless they always made me feel. Though my friends never let me down, I still hated that my fate depended on other people and I couldn’t do much about it.

It was also incidents as such that pushed me to worry even more. Thinking I should never be put in the same situation again, I began to obsess with the idea that if only I’d be steps ahead, I would probably get things under control. And so I became obsessed with work and began associating idleness with complacency and therefore impending doom.

I know there is still a lot of work to do before I can heal from whatever it is, but I am willing to do my part. But for now, I need to remind myself that I don’t have to be “the strong one” all the time anymore. That it’s okay to show weakness. That it’s fine to slow down, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting I need help. That I don’t have to worry about so many things anymore because things are just fine. Everything will be fine.

I hope, with the right strategies and under the supervision of a professional, I can finally convince my brain to cooperate.

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