It's OK to Not Be OK
In this digital age, we're supposedly more connected than ever, and yet I don't think we've ever felt more disconnected. Our world has never ached so much for community, compassion, and belonging. And so every time we lose another soul too soon, it's salt in our already wide open wounds. I wrote about this a bit after the passing of Kate Spade, but I feel called to share more and go deeper.
I think social media is definitely part of the problem—we're led to believe it's connecting us with other people, but it's no replacement for physical contact and actual face time. In this age of curated feeds, we work hard to put our best foot forward and show a curated glimpse into our lives and work. Yet this leads us all to compare our own blooper reels to the highlight reels of others, striving for a level of perfection that isn't realistic and constantly feeling lesser than.
I feel this more often than you'd think—sometimes multiple times a day. Supposedly I'm connecting with others. Meanwhile I'm sitting in my home office alone. And trust me, some days it feels awfully lonely.
I have a history of depression. In my teenage years, I struggled to feel in control during a hectic time in my life and this manifested through an eating disorder and self harm. I believe all creative souls feel things more deeply, and during this turbulent time in my life I didn't know how to reconcile everything I was feeling. To make matters worse, my doctor put me on antidepressants for the mood swings of an empathic teenager and they backfired, making me suicidal.
It's okay to not be okay.
Note: I believe prescriptions can do amazing things for people in need, but the harm side effects can do when those patients aren't monitored can be worse than what those drugs were treating in the first place. Personally, I react very strongly to prescription drugs (especially when they impact my hormones) and try to avoid them at all costs. Again I stress, this is for me personally and it's a very personal choice.
In my later teen years, things got better. I found more of a creative niche for myself, certain specific struggles subsided, and time healed many of my wounds. I found a counselor I could talk to that listened to me and supported me without judgment. Things got much better, but not all the feelings went away. I still have shadows and doubts and dark days even now.
The First World Shame Spiral
Today, I know I couldn't be more lucky. I have a wonderful family and group of friends. I'm blessed with creative talents, I've found my niche, and I own a successful business that allows me to control my own destiny. I have an amazing husband, home, and pup. I have countless things to be grateful for. And sometimes that's the hardest thing about the dark days.
As soon as I start to feel sad or anxious or depressed, I get angry at myself. I think, how dare you be sad/depressed. Do you know how great you have it?! Do you know how lucky you are?? From there I get caught in this First World shame spiral, where I feel badly and then feel worse because I don't think I have the right to feel badly. So I beat myself up for these feelings I can't control, and I try to keep myself from feeling them.
And you know what? That only makes things worse. A lot worse. We would never treat a loved one this way, so why do we do it to ourselves?
It's Ok to not be ok
Over the last year I've been working on giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel, because ultimately I realize that I have no control over the waves of emotion. But I can control how I respond to them. On those dark days I just need a little extra love, especially from myself.
I'm grateful for my blessings, but those blessings don't make my shadows and dark days any less valid.
No matter what you're struggling with, your feelings are valid. No matter how your hurt or circumstances stack up next to someone else's, you have the right to feel whatever you're feeling. And feeling that sadness/depression/anxiety is often the first step to healing.
I still have my dark hours and days, but I've learned this is just part of who I am and how I'm made. My moods ebb and flow and so I do my best to keep calm and cared for during the highs and lows. I work daily to embrace my shadows as well as my light.
All this to say, it's okay to not be okay. You are not alone, even though I know it feels that way sometimes. Remember that you are loved. Remember that you bring light and joy to this world. Remember that help is only a phone call or text or short drive away.
And if you haven't heard from a friend in a while or they pop up in your mind out of nowhere, reach out. Be there. We need to stay connected beyond our screens now more than ever, because we can only weather this storm together.
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