Being Not Okay

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As I was scrolling through Facebook this morning, I came across this post from QuotesGate. “A strong woman knows how to keep her life in order,” it said. “Even with tears in her eyes, she still manages to say ‘I’m Ok’ with a smile”.

And I’ll admit, maybe I was in the wrong place in life to come across this post, or maybe I’m just not the right audience for this post. I mean, yeah, sure, I’d identify myself as a strong woman, and that’s the only audience that this post specifically calls out, but I’m a strong woman who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety three years ago. Ever since then, I’ve been working hard every single day of my life, every last second that I’m forced to spend within my diseased mind, to achieve peace and happiness. But as hard as I’ve been working, the last month or so has been particularly hard on me. Completing my B.A. in English sent me into an existential spiral, wondering what the hell I was supposed to fill forty hours of my week with now – what would fulfill me in the same way that reading and learning new things did? To try and ease my pain, I got myself a job, which turned out to be thoroughly unenjoyable, and I was let go from it as soon as the busy period ended, which just threw me right back into that very same existential crisis, but with the added depression of wondering what I had fucked up, if I was actually employable in the real world, and what it was about this job that I had hated so much. And on top of all of that, I’ve had a very hard time getting in contact with old friends, I’m not very good at making new friends, and I am very, very, very, very single. And I’m not saying all of this to complain – everything that I’ve gone through is very simply a part of mundane, everyday life, and I know that I will get through it eventually. The only reason I am saying this is to explain why I have not been emotionally okay for the last month.

My life has not been kept in order. I’ve been trying to keep it in order, but I’m twenty two years old, which means that I have a whole lot to balance right now. My arms are filled with creative pursuits, my job, my ambitions, my friends, my family, my health, my love life, my passions, my financial situation, and because of my history with depression and anxiety, I’m holding all of them while balancing on one leg. And for the most part, I don’t think I’m doing a particularly terrible job at holding them. Some things slip from time to time, sure, but I’m confident in my ability to pick them back up again. Maybe not right now. Maybe not for a long time, and maybe life will suck a little bit until then, but I know that I’ll figure it out eventually, or at least learn how to live without them.

And here’s the thing – many of us have lives that aren’t in order right now. I am not alone in this. And more than that, many of us have lives that aren’t in order, and yet we don’t know how to put our lives back in order, but why should that make us any less strong? Having an orderly life is not the thing that indicates strength – what indicates strength is your ability to persevere, your ability to keep trying even when things aren’t in order. A strong woman (or man) may not know how to keep their life in order, but they shouldn’t be expected to. That is a hell of a thing to expect from a person, because nobody has all the answers, not even the strongest of us. The strongest of us just don’t give up, even when we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.

But more than that, let’s talk about the second part of this post, because it might be the part that irks me the most: the part that claims that a strong woman (or man) can tell the world that they are okay, even when they aren’t. And, yes, sometimes it is incredibly admirable of a person when they put aside their own feelings to fix or otherwise manage a situation. But that is not something that we can expect from someone constantly. As someone with a background in depression and anxiety, I know this firsthand. Sometimes, emotions get to be too much. Sometimes I need someone to talk to. Sometimes I need to let those tears in my eyes actually spill out onto my cheeks. And sometimes, when I’m not okay, I need to admit that I’m not okay, because that is the only way that I can figure out the best way to deal with the situation.

Emotions do not make us weak. Talking about our problems and admitting that we are not okay does not make us weak. For generations now, young boys have been told that strength means swallowing their emotions to become men, and as a result, there are many men who are emotionally immature and unavailable – this is not a message that we should be extending to women and girls now. Because here’s the thing – emotions are simply a part of us. We should be allowed to learn how to deal with this, how to talk about it, how to learn and grow with our emotions. Suppressing our emotions does not get rid of them – it only makes them manifest in different, more harmful ways.

And from my own personal experience, I was only able to confront my feelings around depression and anxiety when I was finally able to talk about them. I was only able to become okay when I was able to admit that I wasn’t okay. Because being not okay is perfectly natural. Sometimes it happens – there’s nothing shameful about it. And sometimes, admitting that you aren’t okay is the strongest thing that you can do.

What I Want

I want to be okay. That’s all. I want to be healthy, happy, unconcerned. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to get out of bed.

I want friends. I want people who like me and understand me. Not a lot of them, maybe – just one or two would be nice. One or two who stay. One or two who don’t move away or find other people or just stop talking to me all of a sudden. I want to sit in a group of people and not feel like the outsider for once. I want to be with them and not feel like I have to keep trying for them to like me.

I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone who is attracted to me and who I am attracted to as well. I want a relationship that goes beyond an exchange of phone numbers and maybe an awkward kiss or handshake. I want someone who understands me.

I want a job that I enjoy. I want to spend the majority of my day doing something that makes the time go by, and yet I still make money nonetheless, at least enough money to survive. I want a stress-free place to stay in and depend on. I want the opportunity to feel free, like I can grow and change and become who I was meant to be. I want to be in the light and the earth, growing tall and new and green like a vine, rather than stunted and ugly like a weed.

I want a mind that remains calm in the storm. I want to face difficulty with a carefree smile and a shrug, rather than the question of whether or not this is it, the thing that breaks me for good. I want confidence in my ability to weather the hurricane, rather than the fear that I will be drowned in it. I want arms that are clear and soft and free of cuts or claw marks. I want hope and thrill and contentedness.

I want little, I think. I just want to be the way people say I should be – a happy, beautiful, well-adjusted young woman with my whole life ahead of me. That’s what I want. That’s all.

I Need To

I need to write a post. If I write a post, I’ll feel better. I need to write need to write need to write need to-

No. There are other things I need to do. I need to study. But I already have studied. But if I don’t study I’m going to fail. But I’ve already studied and I think I have it under control. But I haven’t even done all the reading. But I’ve done most of the reading and the stuff I haven’t won’t even be on the test, I’m fine. But I need to study need to study need to study.

I need to write a post.

I need to fix my life. My life is a mess. My life is in shambles. I have things to do and I keep fucking up. I need to get a job. I need to keep applying. I need to keep looking and I need to keep trying and I need to find the best job. I need a job that will pay well because I need to be an adult. I need an apartment of my own. I need to move to the city because that’s where things happen. That’s where I’ll meet people. That’s where my career will take off if it ever does. And if I’m going to move to the city I need money and to get money I need a job, a good job, a job that pays. So I need to keep looking. I need to find a-

No. I need to study.

No. I need to write a post.

I need to write a post because I need to get my writing out there. I need people to read it and no one’s been reading it and I can’t let that happen because I need to get my name out there. I need a foundation, a start, so that my writing can get out there and my life won’t be a total waste. I need to write a post. I need to try harder. I need to I need to I need to-

And if I’m going to, I need life experience. I need to get out there and do stuff. I need to talk to people. I need to make friends. I need to date.

What about the girl from the party? She was nice.

She wasn’t right.

Why wasn’t she?

She was exactly like all of my friends, but she wasn’t interested in being friends. She wanted to go on a date, and she’s not like the sort of people I date. She wasn’t right, she wasn’t- what’s the word… ambitious. She wasn’t ambitious and that’s the thing I like. She needs to be ambitious because I’m ambitious. I’m going to study and I’m going to write and I’m going to move to the city and I’m going to write a post.

Are you sure you aren’t being too picky? Are you sure your standards aren’t too high? How many ambitious people will look at you, with your life in shambles, and actually want to be with you?

I can’t lower my standards, not again. Because when I lower my standards, I end up with people I don’t like and then I end up hating myself.

You hate yourself anyway. And if you don’t lower your standards, you won’t date and you won’t make friends and you won’t get experience and you won’t write and you won’t move to the city and your life will be a waste.

I need to write a post. I need to apply to jobs. I need to study. I need to I need to I need to