When the Strong Break
A couple of weeks ago, I broke down.
Nothing particularly dramatic happened. There wasn’t any big event or incident that occurred.
It was years of little and large things, big and small changes, grief, countless losses, dozens of fears and uncertainties, and a thousand other things I probably don’t really remember. It felt more like been worn down until I finally crumbled like sand.
All I could think about was how utterly exhausted and worn out I was. I couldn’t stop crying.
It was utterly terrifying.
See, I’m not generally someone who breaks.
I always keep going, one foot in front of the other. When friends and family have died. When my fiancé and children died. When I’ve been disappointed. When I’ve been through traumatic circumstances. When I’ve lost friends or relationships that mean the world to me. No matter what happens, I always stand up and put one foot in front of the other.
Sure, I might briefly stumble. I might trip and get a bit off-balance. I might fall flat but I’ll bounce back up. No matter what, I put one foot in front of the other and Just. Kept. Going. I am the person who never quits, who always handles whatever comes and keeps pushing through to the other side.
Until I couldn’t anymore.
I woke up last Tuesday and I had nothing left to give. I dug down for that fierce determination that always kept me going and I came up with dust.
I cried all day that day.
I tried to describe to a friend how utterly depleted and worn down I felt but I couldn’t find the words to help her understand. She kept trying to help by suggesting I put more effort or energy into a certain area of my life to help me feel better. I couldn’t explain that even the idea of trying to expend more effort or focus on anything made me feel helpless and broken. I felt like an absolute failure because I simply didn’t have it in me to do what she was suggesting.
I needed to give myself permission to rest, to slow down and do less, not more but was completely terrified at this idea.
It’s been a week since that day and I can’t say that I’m feeling much better. I’ve managed to function on auto-pilot and do the bare minimum that needs to be done. I’m still wrestling with the fear of slowing down even as I know that’s exactly what I need to do.
The truth is that it’s incredibly hard to admit that I can’t do everything and I can’t always handle it all myself.
I can’t always just. keep. going.
Sometimes I need to break. Sometimes we all need to break a little. And although that breaking is messy and uncomfortable (for me and for others), sometimes that breaking is what saves us.
And, maybe, although it never feels this way – maybe it’s ok to break. Maybe sometimes we all need to break open and pour out the grief and hurts and sorrows that we hold inside when presenting a strong face to the world.
Maybe we’re not meant to always keep going.
Maybe sometimes we are supposed to stop. To break. To breathe. And to let go.
And, maybe, if we let ourselves break a little more often and a little more freely, we could simply be strong and free and moving through life rather than pushing ourselves to just keep going.
I’m starting to wonder if the strong part of me isn’t the part that always puts one foot in front of the other and wears the brave face. Perhaps the strong part of all of us is the one that’s willing to break open and show the truth of whatever is happening inside of us.
Perhaps it isn’t the weak who break.
Perhaps it’s the strongest of us who have the courage to let themselves to break open and allow the whole of themselves – messy, broken, and still breathing – be seen.