personal · Thoughts on...

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

It's Okay to Not be Okay

I don’t know if this post is for you. Maybe. I guess you won’t know either until you’re halfway through it. If it’s not for you, that just means it’s not for you today. It still might be for you three weeks from now, or next Summer. At some point, I think this post will be relevant to your life.

Unfortunately.

Even though it’s Monday, and I would have preferred to start the week with something lighthearted, I sat down to type and this poured out instead in a wave of emotion, so here we are.

I want to talk about unhappiness.

This is not an overt unhappiness with people crying at bus stops, or being unnecessarily mean as they cut in front of each other in queues. It’s not a screaming-at-service-staff-about-something-that’s-not-even-their-fault unhappiness, or even the kind of unhappiness that leads to dark undereye circles and terrible dreams. Instead, it’s an almost invisible cheese-wire thread weaving through people’s lives, slicing through their good days. It’s this weak but persistent undercurrent of…

you’re not good enough

you’re not funny enough

you’re not normal enough

you’re not popular enough

you’re not successful enough

you’re not loveable enough

you’re not doing enough

you’re not worthy enough

you’re not trying enough

you’re not happy enough

…..And here’s the thing about that.

It’s always been there. This Gregorian chant of insuffiency is an unfortunate symptom of the human condition. Thankfully, not always. It’s not constant for most people; it tends to chime in at brutally inconvenient times like when you feel so lonely you actually have a legitimate concern you might be invisible, or when you feel like your self-confidence has reached rock bottom and proceeded to dig, or when you have failed spectacularly at something in a public way and are desperately searching for the words to pretend that everything is fine.

It really picks its moments.

This repetitive, monotonous, doubting drone of voices has always been around me, and I just haven’t been paying attention. Now that I’m looking for it, I see it everywhere. I see it, and I recognise it, because guess what? I have it too. Everyone does. Trust me when I say that even the person you look up to the most has had days where they didn’t want to get out of bed.

We know this. We’re all aware of it. We’re alive, and sometimes life is a kick in the teeth. Even the luckiest person can’t avoid the most difficult parts of life forever. Even the cockiest person can’t ignore their inner fears at every waking moment. We’re human, and that means we are skin-draped skeletons walking around with an expiration date, and our short lives are vibrant pops of colour filled with emotion and adventure and love and heartbreak and passion and fury. We collect memories and experiences and feelings and struggles throughout our lives, ee mix them together as we grow, and whatever muddy concoction remains is the sum of our parts.

On some level we are all aware of this.

I think we are getting better as a society at articulating the stickier parts of life, the parts that slow us down, the parts we feel we’ll never move on from. I think it’s great that it’s slowly becoming less taboo to discuss negative feelings.

Have you noticed how we talk about them though?

When negative emotions come up, people have this habit of being unable to talk about them without attaching wholly unnecessary feelings of guilt and shame, like carabiner clips of dead weight. I do it too. I feel terrible, and then I feel terrible about feeling terrible.

Why?

It’s already exhausting to struggle through hard times. When life gets tough, your usual daytime stroll unexpectedly becomes a hike up a cold mountain in the dark, and most of the time it blindsides you and you’re entirely unprepared; you didn’t bring water, you don’t have emergency chocolate, there are no signposts, you’re pissed off because now everything is going to take that much longer, and you didn’t even bring a jumper.

It’s the worst.

Now imagine attaching two dumbells to your waist so you can drag them up that incline with you for no good reason.

Why?

I know that there’s an unease about what people will think. Everything is always supposed to be fine, right? Instagram should be comprised only of excessively highlighted people in beautiful clothes, eating photogenic food in perfect lighting. Twitter should be an oasis of sanity and witty, relatable comments from People Who Have Their Shit Together™. Human unavoidables such as misery, and fear, and unhappiness, and the sort of concerns that keep you up at night until five minutes before your alarm goes off don’t fit neatly into 1:1 ratio photographs or 140 character limits. They ruin the narrative. It’s not a comfortable thing to shine a light on dark thoughts.

And so any reference to these inescapable truths of life and humanity seems to be couched in remorse and embarrassment, and then wrapped in a shroud of shame. There’s usually an acknowledgement of heartbreak or depression or anxiety or failure, and then in the same breath it’s linked to a feeling of weakness or anguish. So not only are we not okay, but we’re not okay with not being okay. Sometimes it’s even followed by an apology, or a reassurance that it will soon change, or a determination to turn things around.

I see this happen not just in myself, or in people I know and love, but also people I don’t. Friends of friends who pop up on my facebook. Complete strangers that are retweeted on my timeline. I see it everywhere, this idea that not being okay is not okay.

So on this dreary Monday, let me just say this:

If you have been unknowingly looking for permission, or subconsciously searching for some sort of sign that you are allowed to take a moment for yourself to just wallow, or cry, or scream into a cushion, or punch a pillow, or go for a long walk with nothing but your thoughts, or anything that you had previously written off as an indulgence… I am giving you that permission.

This is that sign.

You don’t have to be okay all the time. You don’t have to be perfect, ever. You are human, and you are loved, and you have a unique life unlike anybody else’s, and you are wonderful. You have talents in you that you aren’t even aware of.

If you have recently felt less than, know that you are not alone, and you are not less than.

If you have recently made a mistake or done something you wish you could take back, know that we have all been there (more than once!), and that the discomfort you are feeling is what teaches us not to make the same mistake again.

If you are feeling lost, know that sometimes the road is winding, and can even loop back on itself. Familiar landmarks are not necessarily a signpost of stagnation; remember that even when you feel stuck, you are still moving forward.

If you have recently had your trust betrayed, know that you are not foolish for having being fooled. Trust is a precious and fragile thing, and you are not to blame for somebody else having broken it.

If you have recently experienced heartbreak, know that this is the price of having loved fiercely, and that it is worth it every time. Some heartbreaks will make you feel like you got scammed, that maybe it wasn’t worth the cost. It was. It always is.

If you have recently had failure, know that there will also be success. Try not to tip the scale by giving more weight to the failure than it deserves.

If you are melancholy, or depressed, or afraid, or worried, or anxious, or struggling, that’s okay. That’s okay. You don’t have to feel guilty about that. You don’t have to apologise for not being a presentation-worthy version of your best self at all times. You don’t have to feel bad about experiencing the exact same struggles as everybody else.

You just have to be you.

It’s okay to just be you, even when you’re not happy. Even when you’re not having the most photogenic of feelings. Even when life is roundhouse kicking you in the teeth repeatedly and you feel like self-defence is not an option because your arms have inexplicably turned into pool noodles. Even then.

This is not to say that you can stay there forever.

Eventually you will have to stop punching the pillow. You will probably have to drink some water, because non-stop crying is very dehydrating. You will have to get up off the floor, pull your shoulders back, and tell the frankly irritating buzz of self-doubt to shut the hell up. I am not giving you carte blanche to wallow forever in the Swamp of Sadness. We all know what happened to Artax (NSFL), and you, dear reader, are far too precious to me for an ending like that.

Eventually, you will slide back down the scale to relative normality, and the feelings will shift, and the path will be clear again… at least until the next time.

But right now, as you read this – whenever that may be – if you find yourself in a heap, or you just need a breather, or you’re losing it, or you’re feeling ashamed because you’re losing it, and you don’t have anybody else around who can deliver this message in a timely fashion when you need it most…

This post is for you.

31 thoughts on “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

    1. I’d never heard that quote before but now it’s going in the book*!

      *A book…. One of about fifteen notebooks I have lying around filled with random scribbles… I’m not organised enough to have a book of quotes. AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.

  1. You know those inspirational audio recordings…? The ones you see in movies and tv shows where the main character is listening to it and starts vehemently agreeing with everything that is said…? Yeah. I feel like I just listened to one of those reading this piece. I’m glad this this is out in the universe for people to find. I agree- everyone needs this at some point in their life. <3

    1. I don’t know but I am imagining! That sounds so cheesy! It’s hard to be genuine and not come off as cheesy but I tried, and that’s the main thing. I just had to get it off my chest, because seeing sad people feel bad about feeling sad makes me sad! I’m glad you liked it. I will record you an inspirational audio recording any time you need it! x

  2. Hey Quinn, this is a beautiful post and I agree with everything you have written whole heartedly. very recently I have started understand and practicing self love and I feel so much better so much more productive now and it includes basically everything you have mentioned here.

    P.S. my poem was a poem about a station in life, lucky it’s not my current situation in life, I don’t want you to worry.

    Keep the positivity flowing, you are amazing! 🙂

    1. Oh I’m glad! And I agree that practicing self-love is something that a lot of people come to too late but is really important. You should never treat yourself worse than you would other people…. but everybody does it! Thanks N

  3. Thank you for this… it’s uplifting in ways that I can’t reasonably articulate right now(!)
    Sometimes positive wisdom like this comes along on days when we really need to hear it — that’s certainly the case for me, today, so thankyou again. 🙂

  4. I always love your posts Quinn, but this one is just excellent.
    I really hope you can follow your own advice too! Massive hugs, just in case it’s a day when you need them.

  5. “This repetitive, monotonous, doubting drone of voices has always been around me, and I just haven’t been paying attention.” I can totally relate to this line, and you perfectly encapsulated the description of those voices. Beautiful post.

  6. You have left me absolutely in awe of your writing; searching for words to adequately express how profoundly touching this post is; your liveliness bleed through even though the subject matter is heavy, and I promise it’s a good thing; and I’ll admit it was hard to read in some places. Not for a lack of effort or heart on your part: no. It was hard because I needed to acknowledge some of these things, Quinn. It may not be something I needed to hear all at once today. But I think I will definitely be returning to this piece and reading it again, more thoroughly, when I need it. I feel like if I start gushing about this post it will tip the balance force of the entire galaxy; I want to tell you THANK YOU for having the courage to share something so emotionally personal to EVERYONE. Wow. I’m further impressed by your statement it simply poured out and had to be written. Don’t worry about it starting the week off “heavy” because who knows? This heaviness may be the encouragement someone needed to allow themselves a cathartic moment to release tension and perhaps even work toward unloading the heaviness. (I don’t want to outright say it may make them better. That’s entirely not your point and not the one I’m getting at.) I hope this is coming across fluidly enough for you. My most sincerest thanks, Kelsey.

    1. Thank you Kelsey! I hope it is encouragement for somebody, I hope it helps in some way, somewhere. I loved your comment, thank you!

  7. “Even the luckiest person can’t avoid the most difficult parts of life forever.” Oh am I ever kicked in the teeth right now. Glad to see I’ve got so much company.

Leave a Reply