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It's OK If You Still Don't Feel OK Because of the Pandemic

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I’m not going to lie, 2020 was a rough one. Understatement of the century, am I right? I’m one of the fortunate ones, seemingly untouched by the true horrors of COVID-19, but I’m not OK. Thank goodness it’s OK not to be OK. I’m not OK, fine or alright.

Do I have countless blessings? Yes, but I’m not OK.

Am I full of gratitude? Yes, but I’m not OK.

Do I try to focus on the positive when I can? Yes, but I’m not OK.

And it’s OK for you not to be OK, too.

We aren’t puzzles that can be easily solved if we fit the gratitude-shaped piece into the blessing border, and connect meditation and yoga with self-help books and mantras.

The pandemic has wrecked my mental health, not all at once, but by bits and pieces. Some days, I feel like my sanity is tethered to me by a string of thread. I want to run away, but there is nowhere to go during a pandemic.

I have proven to be very resilient over the years, but this feels different because I don’t know how long the pandemic will last or how long I will have to be strong. Growing up, I knew I only had to make it through 18 years before things would be better. I knew my journey with breast cancer involved a two-hour surgery and 30-something radiation treatments. Not knowing is the worst for me.

This is how not being OK feels to me:

I’m stuck in the middle seat on a long flight with no leg room or elbow space. My seat doesn’t recline. I desperately want to jump out of my skin and tear the door off the plane mid-flight. I’m stuck in my chair and just have to be happy with my cup of ginger ale for a million more miles.

I’m walking a tightrope made of a single piece of blue string not meant to hold a human, let alone one full of Uber Eats and Grubhub. I hang on tight with my toes because I don’t want to fall into an abyss of nothingness.

I’m lost and can’t see where I’m going or where I’ve been. I don’t recognize any of the landmarks or signs that tell me I’m on the right path. I’m wandering, stumbling and taking tiny steps with the hope I’ll soon be home.

A time bomb is counting down in my head, but I don’t know if I have 30 seconds or 30 years. I just know I will explode. It could be a little smoke and noise, or it could leave a crater where my neighborhood used to be. Tick. Tick. Tick.

I can burst into flames just as easily as I can burst into tears.

I’m wearing a straitjacket made of heavy, black wool that makes my skin itch and burn. I can’t move my arms to scratch my skin and it’s the only thing I want to do.

Black tentacles are wrapped around my internal organs and tighten every time I fight. My tummy bursts like a water balloon. Stomach acid floods my body and eats away my brain.

Everything matters and nothing matters.

I want to curl up under my work-from-home desk and shrink down to the size of a dust bunny and disappear into the heater vent where I don’t have to care about anything. I’ll run away with a lonely spider and we’ll cuddle in its web — just before it spins me into a cocoon and saves me for a midnight nibble.

A tornado rips up all my fears and swirls them inside my mind so furiously chunks of gray matter are lobbed like grenades and all my happy little memories are leveled.

I’m not OK, but I will be.

I have no doubt about it.

A version of this story originally appeared on Forever Sassy.

Getty image by ajijchan

Originally published: April 11, 2021
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