One of my mantras is “it’s OK to not be OK”. This stems from growing up in a family where I was often told that I didn’t smile enough, that I wasn’t happy enough. It led me to try present something on the outside that was often far different than my true self.
Our culture is such that we are compelled through social pressure to wear the mask of always being OK. In our personal (or digital) interactions we ask “How are you?”. We don’t always have the time or desire to find out the real answer to this question: it is asked no matter what because it is the social norm. If you answer anything other than “good” people often find it off-putting. It’s like we are acknowledging one another’s existence and not wondering how the other person is really doing.
This can be painful for anyone. It has been quite painful for me as I have suffered from mental illness in various forms. There is so much that is misunderstood and it is a huge risk to be honest in the midst of suffering. Sometimes there is the very physical sign that we are not OK such as weight change from an eating disorder or wounds from self-harm. We hide: we hide under clothes and behind smiles, activities, and social media posts. We hide ourselves because we can’t make people understand why we are not doing well. And so my battle cry against hiding pain and brokenness and addiction has been, over and over: it’s ok to not be ok! You don’t have to hide. You are not alone.
Sometimes, though, I find myself in a quandary: I get so used to thinking how things could be different that when there is something positive, something that’s “ok”, I may miss it or resist it by downplaying the positive. There is a risk of always being stuck in trench-warfare mode that I fail to realize when a battle has been won or when there is a reprieve.
I have found myself thinking lately that it’s ok to be ok. I’ve had these serendipitous moments – a ray of light – of realization that there are many battles that have been won. I have been sober from drinking for 3 years. On January 6, 2018 I will be blown away with the beautiful reality of not cutting for one whole year. I am confident I will get there. I am more aware of my anxiety and OCD and they have a little less grip on me (especially anxiety). I am eating more and am able to function much better than in the past.
None of this have I done alone: my faith that God cares for me even in the darkest of times and the few trusted people helping me and keeping me accountable are invaluable. They rescue me from myself and help me see beyond the darkness.
I’m not used to feeling like I’m doing well. It seems like a foreign concept to me. Yet I have always been afraid of being that person who never has anything positive to say. Melancholy is my place of comfort: the place in which I feel like I have the most clear voice, the most to say, even the most passion. I write about trauma and battling addiction and how the world seems to caving in on me and how I disconnect and feel like I’m drowning. Those things need to be said. There has been a different voice as well: one that I have to familiarize myself with. The voice that says “You are doing OK right now.” It’s a kind voice. It’s a voice that won’t judge me or berate me when I’m not doing well. It’s a sweet voice that reminds me that this particular part of the path is a little easier for now. It slows me down, raises my head up, and encourages me to take a deep breath and enjoy being OK.