“Check on your strong friend”
The phrase that went viral a few weeks ago after we lost some pretty amazing people. The phrase that highlights that people who seem put together on the outside, may actually be breaking and screaming in the inside. The phrase that is trying to break the stigma of asking for help and the stigma of showing weakness, especially in times of crisis.
I am the strong friend. I’m there to listen to my friend complain about co-workers or how a work meeting went really bad. I’m there when my friend is going through a mental health crisis with her brother and I check in to make sure she and he are okay, even if she isn’t talking about it. I FaceTime my friend from New York City who cries about her ex-boyfriend from 6 years ago. I give my friend motivation to hit an athletic goal and encourage her to sign up for a race, even though she has a track record of not showing up. I offer suggestions to my friend who hates her job and mentally help her stick it out. I’m there to plan a weekend getaway when we feel like we’re itching for a change of scenery and need to get out of the city. I’m there for my friend who needs to decompress, get sushi for dinner and sit outside in my courtyard in the warm weathered evenings.
I’m reliable, accountable and I’m the strong friend. I provide. I always have.
I also have a lot of my own problems. It can become exhausting to be the strong friend when I’m not taking care of myself, but helping others before I help me. I feel taken advantage of, my needs are ignored and I no longer hold my friends to the same level of trust and accountability.
“You can’t pour yourself from an empty cup”
In the beginning of June, I drew a boundary. I put self-compassion and self-care first. I felt burned out. I still do. But, I’m filling up my cup, slowly.
My boundary has caused a lot of tension. I have only been looking at it from my point of view but, my friends likely feel as if I have abandoned them.
I am the strong friend. Probably because I’ve been through so much therapy, by the transitive property, I am a therapist to them. I’m the strong friend because I’ve been shaped to be the strong friend through my experiences. I’ve endured a lot of pain, I’ve struggled with more than people my age do, I’ve carried an immense amount of shame, I’ve felt belittled and degraded, I’ve been exposed to trauma and I’ve truly neglected my own personal, physical, emotional and mental needs. But it’s made me strong and it’s given me an enormous amount of compassion. My journey has made me the reliable friend, the one who is there and shows up.
I’m the strong friend.
Check in on your strong friends. Always. Check in on yourself. Always. If no one is checking in on you, remind yourself that you are enough and find what fills your cup so you can feel strong again.