She’s got this! She’ll get through it! She handles everything! Why would this be different from anything else? Except maybe it is. Maybe she really doesn’t have this. This might be the thing that breaks her. This might be her final straw. This could be the time she really does need to know others are there. The strong friend breaks too.
Just because she’s not showing emotions doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them. There’s likely more to her surface level feelings and she’s covering them with blanket responses such as “I’m good” or “Nothing is new.” She’s diverting the attention from herself intentionally. She wants the conversation off her life and onto something else; anything else. All the while, she’s suffering inside. She feels suffocated by her own thoughts. She’s crying while driving in silence on her commute or melting down in mere seconds over the small things.
She may act like all is well until it’s not and then be prepared – the demise will be a volcanic eruption. When the strong friend breaks, she will break hard. She’s been holding it together for far too long and when the walls crumple, the pieces that fall aren’t little pebbles, they’re giant boulders. She doesn’t necessarily need you to catch them, she just needs you there holding her hand watching the collapse.
The strong friend is a control freak. She’s Type A to the extreme. You think you can’t help because no matter what advice you give, she doesn’t take it. And maybe so, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want you there. It’s not the words you say, it’s the action you take. It’s sitting with her while she cries it out holding nothing back or sitting there in silence while she says nothing to hold it all in. She doesn’t need you to fix it. She just needs you to be there.
Yes, she’s independent, but being independent doesn’t mean not supported. She doesn’t know how to ask for help. It’s not something she does. But she does expect you, the one closest to her to know when she needs it. She expects you to recognize the red in her eyes after being up all-night crying into a pillow, to hear the crackle in her voice as she tries to quickly end the phone call by saying, “I’m too busy right now,” to notice her undone hair when it’s always on-point or to catch the slight hints she gives about her “just fine” day. There’s always more to it. Dig deep, ask the questions, or simply know when to stop pushing and just sit in silence. Be there!
Remember to check in on your strong friend, your busy friend, your happy friend, your “seems to handle everything well” friend. They bottle it up, they hide their true feelings in fear of being judged, rejected, seen as a burden, etc. But things may not always be as they appear. Don’t assume the strong friend has it.
She may never admit it, but she needs you. She loves and values you. You’re in her life because she wants you to be there. She needs you to show up for her just as she’s always done for you. I know this because I used to be her. And at times, I likely still am her.
I have a village behind me and because of each of them, I know it’s ok to not be strong all the time. But if you are the strong friend and your village isn’t showing up when you need them the most, then it’s time to open the gates and allow them to see themselves out. You don’t need anyone who takes and doesn’t give or is only there for the good times and disappears when you need them the most. True friends are the ones who can see the pain in your eyes while everyone else believes the smile on your face.