“You’re so strong. You’ll get through this.”
I can’t count the number of times I have hard that. For the most part, I guess I am strong. I have my life together and I am emotionally stable. I am the rock that my friends lean on when they need help. I can see why people think I am “so strong.”
But sometimes, life happens.
It knocks the wind out of you and all the air is sucked out of the room.
You’re left feeling shaken, hurt, and unsteady. It’s hard to breathe.
It may even be hard to get out of bed.
When that happens, even “strong” people need help getting back up.
Unfortunately, instead of help, we’re often met with platitudes:
“It just takes time.”
“You’ll get through this.”
“You’re so strong.”
I am sure the people who say these things really believe they are helping. They see it as a compliment. They regurgitate a greeting card platitude and feel they have been of help. Done and dusted. In reality, what they are really doing is absolving themselves of actually helping.
What would help? Instead of “You’ll be fine”, try saying “It sounds like you’re really hurting. Do you want to talk about it?” Then listen. Put your phone down and REALLY listen.
Instead of “Time heals all wounds!!” try “I can see your pain is really raw right now. I’m sorry you’re going through this. What can I do to help you hurt a little less today?” And then do it.
People who know me would describe me as strong, but what they can’t see is that really, I am not. I’m “strong” because I have to be. No one is there to pick me up when I shatter, and I have learned this the hard way. I have to do it myself, but I don’t want to. My aspie brain makes me a great problem solver. Because of this, I’ve spent my entire life helping others and picking up the pieces for other people. It would be absolutely amazing to have someone do that for me. Someone who can anticipate what I need and meet that need without having to be asked. I’d love to have someone like me in my life.
Being a strong woman is hard enough. Being a strong Aspie woman is even harder. Those with Asperger’s already live in a neurotypical world that is pretty judgmental and mean to anyone who appears different. In order to be successful in this world, Aspies have to emulate neurotypical people and follow their social rules. Sometimes, it is just exhausting. The small talk. The noise. The constant smiling because everyone is happy! Happy! HAPPY!. The high-pitched voices and over-enthusiasm. The fake platitudes. It can be overwhelming at times. When you add a personal tragedy to that, it can be immobilizing.
So please – when your friends (Aspie or not) tell you they are hurting or if they share something they are truly struggling with, try not to dismiss their pain with a cliche – even if they are “strong.”