Everyday everyone is going through something whether good or bad, if you’re alive you’re going through something. Most of us try hard to tell ourselves that we’re OK. We try to trick ourselves into believing that if we just “fake it” (happiness) then eventually the unpleasant feelings and thoughts will go away. Eventually sometimes they do go away but they always return because we keep lying to ourselves. Here is something you need to know and you need to tell yourself this…..It is OK to not be OK!
I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in 2005. I remember the moment I stopped telling myself that I was OK and I needed to face MYSELF head on. I had been dealing with some intense issues at work and my grandmother had breast cancer. Everyday started to become increasingly harder to get up and get moving. I kept forcing myself up and in to work because I was “OK”. I kept lying to myself and swallowing my thoughts and feelings as I went about the day. One day I was on a treadmill trying to workout, and someone got on the treadmill next me and recognized me. All she did was smile at me and say, “hey how are you?” and I felt a rush of emotion and physical exhaustion overtake me at that very moment. I started to cry uncontrollably and nearly fell off the treadmill (thank God for emergency stop buttons). Of course I was super embarrassed and my first reaction was to try to pull myself together but I didn’t, I couldn’t. In the days that followed I had more episodes triggered by conversations with any and everyone or my day-to-day schedule. Physically I felt a gripping feeling like someone was squeezing the life out me slowly. I felt like I was drowning with no water in sight. I prayed a lot and cried out to God often but NOTHING was “fixing” me.
I grew weary of trying to self medicate with over the counter drugs and sometimes drinking my feelings into a black hole of severe intoxication. I found a counselor and made an appointment to talk about what was going on with me. It was there that I learned what my episodes were actually called, anxiety/panic attacks. That was back in 2005 and since then I have had other attacks but I have changed my mindset and I allow myself to NOT BE OK. I know life happens and changes in an instant but I now allow myself to feel my feelings instead of bottling them up and choking them down the instant something feels unpleasant. I know that we all do this because we don’t want to appear weak, sensitive, or crazy but we’re only hurting ourselves.
I think for so many reasons we all try to pretend that we’re always “fine”, whether its fear of judgement from others or simply not wanting people “in our business” or asking questions. Trust me, I understand because I’m a private person. Yes, even as I share this, I guard my private life and loved ones like the jewels they are. But I’m OK with sharing with you what I sometimes still struggle with because I know I am not alone and you may need to know that too. I learned with therapy, prayer, mediation, yoga and a true desire to be mentally and physically healthy that you do more harm than good to yourself by not allowing yourself time to work through the things floating around in your head. It’s OK to say to a loved one that you’re not having a good day and you don’t have to know why. It’s OK to cry sometimes and not be able to pinpoint why. It’s OK to not know how you’re going to “get back to yourself” again. You don’t need to force yourself to be normal because none of us are normal anyway.
Sometimes thoughts and feelings still flood me, just not as often as they use too. They crash into me like a rogue wave and sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating. I don’t try to medicate the thoughts away or drink my thoughts and feelings away anymore. Instead I allow the tears to flow. When I need too, I stay in bed all day and give my body and mind the peace and rest it needs. When I’m ready, I talk too my loved ones about my feelings and thoughts. Sometimes I need to explain to them that it’s deeper than just a bad day because sometimes people don’t get it unless they experience it. I no longer get upset the rare times when people don’t understand the seriousness of the situation. Mostly, people simply listen and let me talk through it. Although I always hear it, I don’t need them to tell me everything is going to be OK because I know things always end up OK with time and you need to know that too.
*All photos in this post are by Katie Joy Crawford and you may see more of her work here: www.katiejoycrawford.com
Just because today may seem like the worst day of your life doesn’t mean that tomorrow can’t be the best day of your life….you just have to decide you want to get to tomorrow.