In the past month or so, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments. Some of them are on my hair (the chemo curls are coming on with a vengeance) or how healthy I look. But most of them go something like this:
“You are just so strong. There’s no way I could have managed all this.”
“You are holding up so well; I would be a mess if this had happened to me.”
You get the picture. But the truth is not very inspiring.
Inside, I’m a complete mess. Truly. I just do a good job of hiding it.
This same thing happened 17 years ago when my mom died. I was so composed (at least publicly) throughout the months following her death that I actually had two friends take me aside to tell me they were worried I was in shock and on the verge of a breakdown or something. Little did they know I’d cried a river of tears almost every day, just behind closed doors.
My people are a stoic bunch. I’ve seen/heard my dad cry exactly four times (three after my mom’s death, the other after his beloved dog died). I don’t think I ever witnessed my grandmother shed a tear, despite burying her husband and two children, as well as several grandchildren. Tough as nails. But it’s not that we don’t feel these emotions–we just rarely express them publicly. (I’m sure this is a conversation to have with a therapist one day.)
The truth is, I still cry often. In the car. At night after everyone’s asleep. Holding my baby in my arms in the dark as he dozes off. Even sometimes after doctor’s appointments.
And if you could see my Google search history, well, you’d know what an overly-paranoid freak show I’ve become. I consult Dr. Google on a nearly daily basis. Every little pain or twinge could be something in my mind. I read symptom lists. I read message boards and blogs, looking for people who felt the same things I do but were OK. It’s totally unhealthy, yet I can’t stop.
So, yeah, I look like I’ve got it all together. But don’t be fooled–I’m still a mess inside.