It’s OK Not to Be OK, but It’s Not OK That My Generation Is Struggling
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
I am not OK and I am tired of it.
Some weeks are better than others. Some weeks, I feel empty inside — so emotionless, so exhausted from hearing my own belligerent thoughts that it seems dying would be a better alternative to continuing life with the emotions I currently feel trapped in. It’s not right, but it’s what I am hearing as I go through my day-to-day activities.
And that’s not OK.
Let me clarify; it’s OK that I am not OK. It’s OK to accept I am not perfect. Continuing to pretend like I’m strong so that no one should doubt my capabilities, pretending I am inhuman so I can continue keeping up an appearance — it only lasts so long. I did so at two jobs in my career. In one scenario, I ended up crying in the supply closet daily. In another, I had a very public panic attack, in a moment when I didn’t steal enough time to get to the bathroom and hide it there.
Up until those moments, even though I had discussions with my co-workers about not feeling well, no one really thought anything was wrong. I made every meeting even though, in the mornings, I had to force myself out of bed. I did my make up and hair and kept up appearances well — so well, I thought I could even fool myself. I didn’t know it was OK that I was going through a hard time because no one around me talked about it, and that’s not OK.
It’s not OK to get yourself so overworked that you feel too trapped to continue with life. There is so much to experience: from the monotony of day-to-day life to the extraordinary moments like weddings or births.
Feeling this way, or lacking feeling in this way, did not make me less of anything, nor really that weird. 16 million adults (6.9% of adults) experience a major depressive episode in a year. And the number 1 in 5 gets thrown out so often, I almost don’t need to cite it.
It’s not OK that there is a whole generation, my generation, of people experiencing similar symptoms in unprecedented numbers. In part, arguably due to an economy that left us unable to match our parents’ accomplishments, and in part because we’re coming up to an era where we have started to admit mental health is as important as physical health.
I hear my contemporaries use the words “burn out” and “lazy” together in a self-deprecating way and I cringe. It’s the mark of being told most of your life that you are ungrateful and have it so well in a world that is “your oyster” only to find out the previous generation doesn’t care to mentor you enough so that you know how to properly shuck it.
What’s not OK is the social trophy you get for overextending yourself. I write, have a podcast, work full-time and teach yoga and every moment I am not doing those things I am considering what a waste of space I am. That is until I feel the aforementioned “burn out” and can barely put thoughts together without bursting into tears. At that moment and for the next week or so, I give myself permission to breathe and then I restart the race against my own sanity again.
It’s not OK I feel like I am not living up to a personal expectation and it’s not OK that my contemporaries might internally compare themselves to me through the social media that I am forced to keep up because otherwise, no one would know that I am writing, podcasting, working full time and teaching yoga at the same time.
It’s not OK that I am constantly not OK.
At my worst moments I have spent six hours a week getting to, from and sitting with my therapist and then psychiatrist to maintain my sanity. I love my doctors, I really do, because they ensure I do not crumble into a pile of tired or emotionless, suicidal dust. But the only thing worse than all the time I have had to spend with them to get myself healthy, is that in in 2017, 12.2 % could not afford to spend time or money on doing the same.
It’s not OK, or rather, it’s not fair.
I had to learn it’s OK not to be OK, and re-learn it after I took myself off medication because people around me told me I should be scared to be on it. I was not OK without medication and am grateful I found a very small community of people who gave me the emotional approval I needed in order to keep myself on it without feeling broken or less of a capable person.
I take full responsibility for the fact I let a relative’s judgmental look decide whether I could continue freelancing. I let that get to me. I do not expect nor want to be coddled, but it’s not fair that I grew up in a manner that made me seek approval from others whenever I need to make a life-changing choice. It’s unfair but it’s also no one else’s problem.
It’s not OK that I have lived a life which makes me have to take a deep breath and remind myself it’s OK not to be OK. It’s not OK that I ever have felt suicidal because it means pieces of my life have brought me to that moment.
What’s most important is to give yourself permission to get better, so that your “not OK” turns into an “OK.” The reason that hashtag #itsoktonotbeok even took off is because of how intent we are on pushing ourselves past our breaking point. We won’t admit we need help even though we feel like we’re drowning. Gender, sex, country of origin, socioeconomic status and race only multiply the issue. And none of that is OK.
Photo by Camille Ralston on Unsplash