Around a year ago I filmed a video titled, “It’s Ok to Not Be Ok.” Right now I’m finding myself struggling to take my own advice. Not being healthy, be it physically or mentally, takes such a toll on everyday life. It’s hard to envision a future time when you might feel better, or at least feel better able to cope with how you are feeling. This doesn’t make you a bad person, or a failure at life. It makes you human, and all humans struggle in one way or another.
I personally have experienced that sometimes to pull out of your own head, you have to let yourself fall fully into it first. I can’t cope with too much pain or too much anxiety if I have to keep it all inside. It has to be let out. It has to be felt or it won’t lessen. Breaking through and giving yourself permission to just not be Ok for awhile can be as important a step as those you take to try and pull out of it. You can’t always get out of a hole if all you’re doing is staring into it. You may need to jump in and then wait for a ladder to appear.
That said, be as safe as you can be when you do so. Whenever possible make sure there is someone or something that can bring you back before it gets too dark. It’s incredibly hard to tell another person that you feel like you’re in a bad place. It feels like admitting failure. It feels vulnerable, often due to fear of rejection. We are all told we need a good support system, but such a system is so much harder to find than a generally healthy person can understand. Many friends or relatives instincts are to tell you to be more positive, or they want you to tell them a concrete way to help you. They mean well, but there isn’t always a clear cut answer you can give them. Personally I tend to feel like what I really need is a safety net, a place where I can be negative and get all my fears and frustrations out. Which is incredibly difficult to ask for. How do you ask someone, “I want you to be here with me, even if doing so makes you feel terrible as well.” It’s not easy to share someone’s pain with them, and most of us are acutely aware of that. Which is why we try to spare our loved ones from having to feel it, even if it’s to our own detriment.
I am not going to try and claim that I’m good at asking people for those things. Usually the only one I’m really comfortable with talking to is my own husband. I worry about it putting too much strain on our relationship, even though he assures me that it doesn’t. I don’t make friends easily in part because I know at some point I will either have to hide how I really feel from them, or come right out with it and hope it doesn’t scare them away. “Hi! I’m Joli. I can be a total mess sometimes, but I hope that you’ll decide I have enough redeeming qualities for it to be worth it to you.” It’s an impossible statement to make. I takes more bravery that I generally feel I have, so I just wait for the worst to come out and hope that they stick around. It doesn’t help that we are often advised to remove “toxic” people from our lives. I live in fear of being deemed toxic to someone else.
It is not untrue that being around positive people can improve the way you are feeling at the moment. That being able to laugh with someone doesn’t help. It really can. I have broken out of anxiety cycles because a friend came over and I had to force myself to be more cheery. It just isn’t always the solution. We all have to find a balance between letting ourselves feel what we need to feel, and making ourselves do the things that make us feel better. I’ve gotten out of bad moods just by playing with my corgi. He’s a big doofus and impossible to to laugh at. Going outside and moving can do a lot for my mood too.
Case in point: I was not doing well this afternoon. What start as a low level buzz of anxiety in the morning, turned into full blown depression by lunch. I could not pull myself out of this increasing feeling of despair. I’ve had a lot of anxiety and depressive periods this last 4-5 days, mostly due to hormone fluctuations which are maddening due to how little control I have over them. I was near tears constantly and found myself unable to do the types of things that might make me pull out of it.
I was lucky today. My husband was able to come home early from work and help me do some things to try and break my depression. We went for a walk by a local lake. Usually being outside and moving really perks me up. However this time it wasn’t working. I just felt like crying the whole time and scenery change wasn’t enough to change my perspective. So we left the lake, drove to the mall, I had a cry in the car and went inside to wander rather despondently through a few stores. What finally broke my bad mood was buying basic t-shirts at Target. I’d been needed them and had struck out at Old Navy this time around. I’m not sure if it was the feeling of getting something accomplished, or if it was being distracted by a specific task, but I stopped thinking about how bad I felt for a bit. After that I didn’t feel wonderful or anything, but I felt calmer. I felt like I was on the other side of this episode and beginning to move in the right direction.
The world is not all sunshine and rainbows for me right this moment. I have not magically morphed into a positive and cheerful person. I feel more level as far as mood goes. Normal-ish if you will. I’m no longer sinking without seeing the surface nor the bottom anymore. I know I will feel that way again, but for now I’m sitting with the knowledge that as bad as it got, I got through. I was able to ask for and get the help I needed this time. I was not ok, but it was was ok to let myself feel that way and know I was struggling.
I was not ok for awhile, but I recovered enough to face another day. Which is not perfect, but it’s still ok.