When I talked to my birth father for the third time in my life, I tried to tell him that his absence in my life had damaged me immensely, his exact response was “you’ll get over it.“
Years ago I actually – for the first time ever – called a guy to help me when another guy hit me. His response after was “you’re strong, you’ll get through it.“
On Twitter I told someone about a fear of returning to work after being jobless for so long, and the response was “you’re one of the strongest people what I know, you’ll be fine.”
Y’all, I am tired of being strong. I am utterly exhausted, and I don’t fucking want to be, I want to curl up in a ball and scream and cry and talk about how unfuckingfair the world is, but I can’t,because I am supposed to be “strong”.
What does that even mean? Does that mean that I never complain about my life? That I pretend things and people and places that bother me, don’t? Does it mean spending time with people I dislike because it’s advantageous to my career, or my station in life? This last one isn’t an issue that I personally have to deal with, but it’s a fairly common issue among society.
Does being strong all the time mean that I put what I want on the backburner so that I can help other people get ahead? Because I used to do a lot of that stuff, and it really frustrates me. I helped someone with their career, and now they are making money and I am dependant on my mother, and it’s frustrating because this isn’t where I expected to be at thirty-seven.
I don’t really know where I expected to be, but to be honest with you I am pretty sure the answer is dead. Given the life that I’ve led there is no scientific reason for me to be alive, technically I should be dead.
Yes I have survived a lot of terrible things, and I have experienced a lot of traumatic events, but what next? For three years while I built this website my entire life was just about surviving from one day to the next. It was about just creating enough content to keep me busy while I was healing from the broken mind that came when the memories of my past escaped.
Now I am four years in and I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is my purpose in life. I heard a story about one of the capitol building rioters yesterday, she was a health and wellness life coach, and the judge actually said she’ll have to do her job from jail.
My life is not currently that bad, and clearly I am doing a lot better than she is, but does that mean that I am ready to start thriving? Yesterday I did a roundtable conversation with the BudSista’s about cannabis and the different uses and methods of intake. It was a great conversation about love, sex, mental health, food, and connection.
We talked about racism and sexism, and it was like sitting at a table with my best friends and sisters, and I realized that I am apart of a really amazing sorority of women from around North America, and for the first time in my life I don’t feel like I have to be strong all the time.
With these women I genuinely feel like it’s okay to break down, like it’s okay to take a break and not feel like I am making excuses for it.
The reason that men say that we’re strong – or that anyone tells us that we’re strong really, is because they don’t know how to handle it when “the strongest person they know” breaks down. They are taking their lead from us, and while that’s flattering it’s also incredibly stressful.
When people look to us as if we’re never allowed or capable of breaking down and having bad days, we often feel like we’re not allowed to. Like we’re supposed to just bury the pain by any means necessary, like we’re supposed to show them how to do it, and it just creates a cycle of ignorance and mental health issues.
For centuries women let men take the lead, for centuries we stayed silent about our pain, spreading our legs to ensure that we gave birth to the child of a “Sir” who could elevate our station in life. Women found ways of dealing with their pain by actually starving themselves, drinking too much, and gambling. We broke ourselves into pieces just trying to prove that we can handle anything, and finally those of us alive right now are living in a time when women don’t have to be perfect and strong.
We are the generation that our ancestors dreamt of, we are the ones that they thought “maybe one day, possibly, potentially, it could lead to women being able to live free of judgement and shame.”
Yeah okay people judge us, and yes we still live in shame, but we also live in a society that is teaching us that we don’t have to live with judgement and shame, we live in a time in human history when it is acceptable for women to be who they want.
As women have discovered the idea of evolution and emotional growth, so have men followed suit, more than ever men are talking about their feelings and learning that they don’t have to be strong all the time either.
My children will be born into a world where it is acceptable for them to be LGBTQ2+, where it is acceptable for them to talk about their feelings, and where no matter who they decide to become, they will know that they are loved.
Very few generations can say that about those who came before us. None of this information changes the fact that I feel like I have to be strong all the time, because “that’s the brand,” but it’s even more on brand for me to say that sometimes I just want to kick and scream about how unfair the world is.
The entire time that I was hanging out with men who were boys when they first raped me, I spent all of that time drunk, or as much of it as possible, and not once did I let it slip that I remembered what happened, and that’s largely because I didn’t.
It took being gang raped again, and then arrested for having a panic attack and even though during that panic attack I knew I was overreacting, even in the moment, it was also incredibly freeing to let out the screams that I hadn’t been allowed to let out while I was being raped.
That whole time I was surrounded by people who hated me or were confused by me and had no real idea of who I was or who I wanted to be because I honestly had no idea. I just wanted to get from one day to the next, for the first time in awhile I am not feeling like I am doing that.
I am trying to remember that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and so that means that I am allowed to work when I feel good enough to work, and I am allowed to relax when I feel that I need to relax, and no one gets to judge whether or not I am doing enough except me, because for the first time in my life I don’t care.
I still get frustrated when people remind me that I am strong, but I also remember that it’s coming from a good place. It’s not all the time that people are telling me this because they expect me to suck it up and deal with it, like my birth father, more often than not it is done out of a sense of “I want to comfort you because I love you.”
Knowing the sentiment comes from a good place is helpful – hell if I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t have been inspired to write this post.
The point of this post is that telling someone they are strong can be just as damaging as it can be comforting, the words are powerful in of themselves, so it’s important to remember to wield them with both kindness and sensitivity, because sometimes they are not always the words that someone needs to hear at just that moment.
Just something to think about,
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall