Over the years I have been accused of being cold, unfeeling, someone who doesn’t care and a variety of other things. The irony behind such comments is that more often than not the same person who called me those would then later go on to call me strong and brave and such an example of how people should be. So which is it? Am I an Ice Queen or am I some pillar of womanly strength? Personally, I don’t think I am either one. Not at all. Although I am observant enough to understand why some might see it differently.
For as long as I can remember I have had to be a strong person. This is not something that is bad per say, but over time it can become problematic. The problem arises when those around you, see you as the Strong person. The oh you’re always so strong or Oh, she’ll get through this because she is strong. While it might not be meant in a bad way, it is most often meant in a good way or with the best of intention anyways, it can become a very bad thing. It gives the thought that because someone is strong they don’t need help. That’s because someone is always showing you a strong face they aren’t falling apart. This is where it becomes a problem. Those who are the strongest often end up falling apart completely alone.
My parents divorced when I was 12, now I am not going to sit here and carry on about how it ruined my childhood and all of that. Yes, my parents getting divorced was traumatic, and yes, it was hard and some of the other things that went with it were hard. Chances are it is the moment in my life where I made a firm choice to be a strong person, but things happen right? I didn’t ever make a choice to be someone who doesn’t feel or who doesn’t care. In fact, I get in more trouble because of how much I DO care instead of not caring enough.
The trouble really starts when as time goes by because I am strong and independent and tend to be yank on my bootstraps kinda girl that’s all many see me as. I have become the person everyone says is so strong and can handle everything and anything. A few times I asked for some help or support and those times I was told, “oh but you are so strong you don’t need anyone to help.” so over time I stopped asking. I got very good at wearing a mask that appeared strong and calm as a cup of water even as everything inside of me was screaming because it was all falling apart.
I got too good at wearing that mask.
I got so good at wearing that “I am fine” mask that for a while, I even managed to fool myself. I managed to pack it all away in boxes and not look at it. Not a healthy way to deal with things and I know that, but I couldn’t let people down now could I? They saw me as the strong one, the one who would always be there sturdy and strong for them to lean on. So I had to be that and while I will always do my level best to support someone I love and care about, I am a human too. I need to lean in and cry sometimes too, but I got very good at pretending like I didn’t. That was my fault as much as any other situation and I own that fact.
I got so good at that mask, I mean really good I didn’t tell anyone about the years of emotional and mental abuse I was suffering from thanks to my ex. Everyone thought I was fine and of course all I ever said is I am fine. However, I was not fine. I was anything but fine.
When my ex was cheating on me, I was fairly sure it was happening long before I said anything about it to him. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to poke it, if I did the mask might slip and fall off. Slowly, however, the mask started to crack. The more he tried to make me feel like I was paranoid, or deluded or I was the one lying and scheming and doing all sorts of things, the more the mask cracked. See mental abusers and cheaters use that tactic A LOT, they can delude themselves (and others) into thinking you are the bad guy and they are totally justified in every single action they take.
To this day I am fairly sure my ex has many people snowed into believing his version of events. Problem being when you are on marriage number 4 and the only common denominator each time has been you, might be time to think about that. He won’t of course people like him never do, they have to be in the right and the victim. He’s a peach enough to even blame his poor fathering on the children. One of which he tries to still do this day say isn’t his, despite a DNA test that says otherwise. Not to mention the fact that the child is the spitting image. I digress however, this is what they do and many women don’t manage to ever break away from it.
I am lucky that I did. My mask cracked and shattered all over the floor. Yet even in those moments when I walked away from that relationship after so many years everyone told me how strong I was. I know they meant well and I know it was meant as encouraging for me it started to feel like an expectation. So I put up a paper mask, it was not nearly as good as the other but it made do.
It took some time reflecting on things and life, I am sure many women who are cheated on and walk away look back as I did. I started unpacking all of those boxes that I had put away in my mind. Sorting through things and finally coming to terms with admitting I needed to ask for help again. I had become someone who has crippling social anxiety and a myriad of other anxiety issues along with physical ones that weren’t being addressed. Now you can’t expect other people to fix you, but you hope that when you reach out a hand and ask for help to those who have been in your life for a long time that they will take your hand without malice and help.
That is not always the case of what happens sadly. Now I would be lying if I said I was completely and utterly alone in this world. I am not. I do have people and I love and thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they do as they can do it. Sometimes , though, you need someone else to help you. Or at the very least you need them to understand that you can’t be the sturdy oak right now. That you love them, but you need to work on yourself for a little while. You would hope that would be understood and they would support you as best they could. At the very least you hope they won’t add to your burden.
I can’t explain for me how much it hurts to see that is not always the case. Not always the case at all. When I started being more honest, admitting I had limitations that I could not actually carry the weight of all of my problems and everyone else on my shoulders. I was in for a surprise.
I was being cold. I had a frozen heart. I don’t care enough about them. I don’t understand them. I am strong I should be able to handle anything. I am making big deals out of nothing.
All things I was told when I started admitting I could simply not handle everything. Those barbs hurt more than I can ever express in simple words. Perhaps I should have walked away, then, said well okay if that is how a person feels. It isn’t always that easy when you care about someone. It really isn’t that easy when you have already changed so much of your life around. It feels as if it would be more than selfish. I am sure there are some codependency issues going on there, but once I truly love a person and take them into my heart, I will fight for them even if maybe sometimes I shouldn’t.
So to try and refute the comments of coldness and everything else I made conscious effort to be more open, more vulnerable to let them see behind the paper mask. You see I feel just as deeply as you do, I am hurting just like you can hurt. I need help too.
This ends up being a mistake as well you see. Those moments end up being used against me. Like a weapon each one slung like a hard iron barb at the moment when I could least afford to have it happen. I can’t even think of putting up a copy of the words that have happened with me over the last week and one particular friend. I don’t claim to be a perfect saint I truly don’t. But three times in less than 1 week a cycle of attacks, apologies and promises has occurred each one getting worse than the other. The second attack was less than 48 hours after the first, while the third was less then 18 hours after the second. A very clear and very bad pattern and everything I had ever allowed this person to see behind the mask was used against me like a weapon to beat me down.
It worked. I am down and I am in the mud and I have not felt this way ever in my life before. The pain that those who you love most in the world can inflict is worse than any random person could ever do. I once said I don’t fear enemies I sometimes fear my friends in a moment of cold sorrow. I really hate that it seems that this comment has found a way to be true in my life.
I feel like an open wound an open nerve ending that if you breathe on it wrong it will hurt. I don’t like feeling that way. I really hate it. Alas, I am strong, right? I should be able to fix myself and be just fine. Perhaps over time I will. I do manage, generally to put the pieces back into place. I just wish they wouldn’t keep getting knocked out so often.
The worst part about it? I am supposed to accept and be okay with what happened. Why you ask? Because this person has mental health issues. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand the seriousness of them and I let SO many things slide because of it, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to purposely cause another person so much pain. It doesn’t give anyone the right to maliciously seek out the soft spots and attack them. I will have to accept it though, because in this persons world that is how it is to be.
The battlefield is bloody and strewn, both sides did draw blood. I am not a passive person by any means I will defend myself every single time. But I avoid hitting things like the nuclear choice. Words that would be so devastating they could never be taken back. I wish I could say the same for others. The other party walked off the battlefield after attacking and will not return for some days at least, maybe longer. This other party is in a space where they will be able to process and not have to worry about anything beyond that. No responsibility.
It isn’t club med by any means, but there is something to be said for being able to focus only on your mental and emotional health for a while. I won’t get to do that. I have responsibilities and things that must be handled. As much as I would like to shout and say STOP, LET ME OFF THE WORLD for a little while that is not how it works. The world keeps turning and I go with it. Beyond my own responsibilities I will now also be in charge of things the other party left behind undone or intended to. Like making sure their dog is fed every night, among other things.
This is a long ramble, but alas, it is what the inspiration lead to and well I won’t be sorry about it today. Sometimes we must find a vent for our pain in order to try and move forward. If there is a way.
Just remember, Ice may seem cold and dangerous. But it is also brittle, breaks under too much pressure and can melt away to nothing.