It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to be just fine. It is okay to have a bad day. It is okay to have a great day and let the world know just how great it is. It is okay to acknowledge the good, bad, and indifferent. There is this common belief that we are all supposed to be doing “just fine,” that we need to be strong, conquer the world, balance it all. That theory is wrong.
You’re fine, except for when you’re not. Maybe you find yourself repeating “it will all be okay,” the kids are fine, my spouse is fine, I will be fine, “it’s all good.” It’s the fake it till you make it approach. The idea that if you keep telling yourself everything is okay, that if you repeat it enough things really will be okay because you’re fine. It’s all normal stress. At this age, things are supposed to be hard, kids “are more challenging nowadays,” so it’s no surprise if they are being needy. People are working longer hours, so it’s normal to be running around, not sitting down for dinners, and working extra hours or working from home. It’s all fine. It’s just a phase. Things will get better.
How long have you been “fine?” how long have you been treading water, climbing an uphill battle, or struggling to just survive and maintain? When you look around and compare, do you feel like everyone else is doing fine? Does it feel like everyone else is happy, productive, succeeding in life, and that “they’re good?” Everyone else is not you. Everyone else portrays only what they want you to see. Nobody has it all together, no person is perfect. Any person can be “good” in the five seconds it takes to capture a photo. Any house can appear clean for the one minute before kids, pets, spouses, shoes, laundry, junk, etc. resurface and take over.
So you tell yourself that maybe tomorrow things will be better. You convince yourself it is normal to have sleepless nights. You justify withdrawing from your social life by making excuse such as, “life is too busy…it’s that time of year and the kids have so much going on…my spouse is working late again.” You create lies to tell others in order to avoid being honest with yourself. You don’t feel like you can actually be honest and admit that you are overwhelmed, overworked, overtired, or that you have anxiety or depression. That doesn’t feel like a valid excuse, that is not a reason to miss out, and take some time for yourself. So you lie and say, “it’s all good, maybe next time” or “thanks for the offer, but no worries, I’ll be fine, I will figure it out.”
Does this sound like you? It probably sounds like the majority of people. You are not alone, you’re not failing. You are most people trying to just get by. Maybe it’s the expectation you have of yourself to be “normal.” Or maybe it’s shame and denial, finances, or available time or guilt. Whatever the reason for pretending to be “fine,” know that the situation will not change unless you first are willing to change. You have to be the person to take that first step. But, you likely know that already and that is why you are barely treading water at this point. Admitting the truth is scarier and sometimes more unpredictable then continuing as you are.
It’s okay to say that you’re not okay. Your feelings and emotions are valid. I am sure things are chaotic, I am sure there is a lot of your plate right now. We all have struggles, we all have issues to work through and sometimes we just need to accept that things will not go according to plan. You cannot fake it till you make it. Ignoring your feelings and minimizing changes in your sleeping, eating, or other health habits will not suddenly make it all disappear.
Ignoring, denying, and minimizing will only delay the explosion. Pushing down the truth about how you really feel and the struggles that are really going on in your world is not normal. Lying and misleading is not normal behavior. So be honest: if you’re not okay, then say so. if you need help, ask. If you are unsure of something, research it. Seek professional help and/or guidance. If you just need a break, take one. You deserve it.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable and admit that you’re not okay, that things really are not “fine.” I know it can be scary to do, especially since we dedicate so much time projecting the opposite. But when was the last time you or anyone else really believed that life was truly rainbows, sunshine, and cute little puppies running around?
The negative emotions of life balance out the positive. Without one, we would not be able to experience the other. Know that it is okay to be different. It’s okay to feel, to cry, to laugh, to be angry, or to be excited. Emotions are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign of strength. In a society where we judge and criticize people for feeling and expressing those feelings, it takes much more strength and courage to go against the social norm and openly express what you’re feeling.
It might hurt and it will more than likely be awkward. Admitting the truth about what you think, feel, and what really is going on is, for many people, new, different, and scary. Admitting the truth and acknowledging your feelings is the only way to get through it. So, if you are not okay, that is okay. Your feelings are valid. They are your feelings to own so embrace them. Eliminate the idea of perfectionism or being “normal.” The only normal is the setting on your dryer. Take time to rest, to breathe, and to navigate your feelings. Communicate your needs to others, allow yourself to feel, and, most importantly, stop lying! Nobody is fine all the time. No one is always good. Acknowledge the struggle in order to experience the good.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.