It’s Okay to Not Feel Okay

It’s Okay to Not Feel Okay

Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash

My personal journey has been a long one. I’ve struggled with depression for nearly 30 years—and half of that was severe, suicidal depression.

I tried counseling, medications, and was even hospitalized for a period of time because my mental health was spiraling out of control. Then one day, something “clicked.” I realized that if I was putting garbage into my body (drugs, processed foods, alcohol, etc.), it was obviously not going to function very well.

It’s like putting old gasoline into a car: Yeah, you might get the car to start, but it’s not going to run very well.

So I started taking better care of myself. I got rid of all the unhealthy foods and processed sugars, and started eating more whole foods, more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, and getting enough sleep each night.

Over the years, I also forced myself to change my perceptions and understandings about things, to start looking for the positives, or the “silver linings” in every situation, even if they were so ridiculous that they made me laugh—all the better!

I learned how to meditate to quiet my restless mind, how to perform breathing practices to center myself, and engaged in yoga for balance and inner strength. I adopted a strong spiritual practice, and built a strong support system that proved invaluable.

For about the last 5 years, my mental health has been strong and positive, even in the midst of tragedies and loss. I have maintained a balance and strength that I never imagined possible through each of these methods I’ve mentioned.

In the last few weeks however, I found myself extremely fatigued for no apparent reason; all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt apathetic, and I was ready to cry over everything, at the drop of a hat. Even the most ridiculous things, like a normal commercial—for car insurance—had me at the brink of tears.

Last week, I finally just let go and cried. And cried. I didn’t know why I was crying, but I knew that it felt good to just cry. My point is, it’s okay to not feel okay. Allow yourself time to express your emotions—without judgment—even if you don’t fully understand what’s being expressed at the time.

In the midst of crying, I realized that I spent the last few months not recognizing just how much the turmoil and disruption of the coronavirus pandemic was affecting me. Even with all the “tools” I have in my mental health toolbelt, I still found myself surprisingly impacted mentally and emotionally by the pandemic—as well as by others’ reactions to it.

Once I was able to recognize and acknowledge that, things began to shift. I stopped crying, wiped away my tears, took a deep breath, and told myself, “It’s okay to feel this way, but I don’t need to stay feeling this way. What am I going to do now to put myself on a different trajectory?”

So I picked myself up, laced up my sneakers, and went for a walk around my neighborhood. When I got back, my mind was clear, the fresh air energized me, and I decided to reach out to a few friends who also live with mental health challenges to see how they were doing, and to share my experience with them.

It’s important to remember in these changing times, that it’s okay to express our emotions, whatever they may be—but we don’t have to be ruled by our emotions. We can express them, acknowledge them, and then move on.

It’s also important to remember the power of connection. Whether it’s connection with close friends and family, connection with an intimate partner, connection with a Higher Power, or connection with yourself in the moment—those connections are what keep us strong and keep us going.

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