She seems strong, because she can joke about the worst moments of her life. She seems strong, because she never cries in front of a crowd. She seems strong, because she goes out of her way to make sure everyone else is happy. Because she not only takes care of herself, but also takes care of everyone around her.
But her strength is only an illusion.
When she is surrounded by her family and friends, she forces smiles. She fakes laughs. She acts like she is happy. Like she has her life together. Like there isn’t anything weighing on her mind.
No one notices the way she escapes to the bathroom just so she can breathe again. The way her eyes glaze over after conversations end. The way her laughter trails off soon after it begins.
Everyone thinks highly of her. They think she has a good head on her shoulders. They think that she can handle anything that life throws at her.
They think of her as someone who is strong, but that’s only because they don’t see what she looks like when she is home alone. They don’t see the mornings she spends crying inside of the shower. They don’t see the moments when she stares at her ceiling, thinking about everything and nothing all at once, wondering how much longer she can hold herself together.
They don’t hear the dark thoughts that race through her head. They don’t see the nightmares that haunt her once her eyelids close. They don’t taste the hopelessness swimming through her veins.
She looks strong on the outside, because there are people around her who need her to be strong. If they saw her crumble, then it would only make things worse for them. It would make them worry. It would make them concerned. Showing her truth would be bad for everyone involved. So she has become an expert at faking okay-ness.
That is why she washes her face off before leaving the bathroom to get rid of any traces of tears. That is why she takes a deep breath before walking into a crowded room so no one realizes that she was hyperventilating seconds earlier. That is why she blasts music in her car and talks to herself when no one else is around so that she gets the emotions out of her system by the time she is no longer alone.
She does everything she can to appear normal. Okay. Fine.
She looks strong — but she does not feel strong at all. She feels like she is tricking everyone into thinking she is someone she is not. She feels like she is living a lie. She feels like she is playing a role.
She doesn’t realize that she actually is strong, because it takes strength to get up every morning, shower, get changed, and face the world when the world is such a cruel place. It takes strength to leave the house when she could easily make excuses to stay inside. It takes strength to keep going when she can’t think of a good reason to do so.
It takes strength to be her.