There is a downside to being strong.
A manager who had elective surgery last month has recently returned to work after being on short-term medical leave. She is still very sore and feels easily exhausted. She came to me to complain not realizing that it’s how I feel on a good day. She will be working part-time from home because it’s simply too difficult and demanding to come in the office every day.
I find that I’m struggling with empathy and I don’t like it. All I could think of is that I get myself to work every single day. That I don’t have the luxury of staying home and resting, because my situation isn’t temporary. It’s never going to get any better. I just have to live with it. I cried at my desk after she left. You can talk until your face turns blue and people simply don’t get it.
In the same day, another coworker who is also struggling with chronic health issues was told by her doctor that she’s heading for a breakdown and that the flare-ups she’s been experiencing are due to stress. She herself said that her home life is quiet and that she is financially stable, so the only source of stress is work. I know that this is true because our office is really bad when it comes to stress management. She wouldn’t be the first or the last to go on short time medical leave for a burnout. My heart really goes out to her.
Another coworker who is also struggling with chronic health issues and 10 years younger than me, living with her parents, with no kids or financial responsibilities, is asking her doctor to go on medical leave because she can’t handle the pain. I know how she feels as we have the exact same illnesses.
I feel for them. I really do. I understand better than most how difficult it is to deal with chronic illnesses. I’m going through the same things. The only difference is that I’m not financially stable and cannot afford to go on medical leave. I am also a mother of a teenager with social anxiety issues, a migraine sufferer, asthmatic, a low immune system and a learning disability who goes to regular school. Plus I’m a stepmom to another teenager and another kid with attention deficit issues, anxiety and a learning disability who goes in a special school. This is only touching the top of the iceberg. Stress is everywhere and 24/7.
I cried on the way home today. Something wasn’t sitting right with me and then I realized what it was. I’m strong. I get kicked down over and over again, but I still get up. Even when I can’t take it anymore, I still stand up. Because of this strength, people assume that I have it easier somehow. They don’t see the struggle and they don’t see the broken person underneath.
Even my husband said that I should have exploded and broken down by now, but we can’t afford for me to break down. It’s simply not an option. So guess what? Tomorrow, I will wake up and stand up. I will do so for myself and for my family.
This blog article isn’t just to complain but to say to all of you who are in the same situation, because I know I’m not the only one, that I see you. I understand. I’m here if you need to let go of steam that’s been building up on the inside. That I know that you can be strong and broken at the same time.