Why It’s OK to Not Be OK

Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous. ~ Brene Brown Click To Tweet

“I am not ok right now ”, I stated in between sobs. I was sitting on the cement in the middle of a small park in Shanghai, having a mini-meltdown. At this point, it was a daily thing. As I cried, trying to bring my feelings to words, I noticed the faces of a few curious Chinese men, bumbling about the park, taking a side-eyed interest in the spectacle of this weeping woman across the street.

A few minutes earlier I was standing in the busy underground city shopping mall amidst hundreds of people, trying to get a connection on my phone so I could send a text — just one single text — to reach out for support in my new found recovery. But it was worthless. The damn connection couldn’t make it and I suddenly felt all the sticky, un-dealt-with emotions bubble up from below and cause my skin to grow that much tighter.

It was too much. I was inept at expressing myself and this was simply too much feeling. I was desperate for connection, for someone to unload onto. This was, after all, my new ‘thing’ following years of “I can manage life on my own”.

I suddenly, awkwardly blurted out to my husband: “I need to talk about my emotions” right there on the sidewalk. This was not something I was used to saying. I was used to holding everything in until it erupted in a display of volcanic magnitude, usually at the worst possible of times.

Though I didn’t know it in the moment, what happened next was a hallmark in my growth to sunnier emotional climes. Without waiting for a response, I sat down and spewed everything I was feeling, right at that moment: OUT. It was ugly, scared, angry and very far from being what the world would consider ‘OK’. 

The thing about it? It sure felt OK. In fact, it felt more than OK — it felt rightAt that moment, through the act of allowing all of these things their release into reality, I allowed myself to see beyond them and not freak out that there was something ‘wrong’ with me. There was no secondary NO. I didn’t try to manipulate myself into a better mood. The feeling of ‘not being OK’ was like a blanket of heavy, silent, untouched snow. There was heaviness and pain, but also… peace.

I accepted that maybe what I was feeling was going to bring me where I needed to go. I allowed myself to let it do its thing.

The only way through, is through. Click To Tweet

Facing the Music

Being ok with not being ok can ground and solidify our state and allow us to settle into the crap. In allowing ourselves to accept this feeling of just plain-old not feeling good, we become accepting of a process – a process we may not fully understand, but that we allow nonetheless.

Learning this is exceptionally important. It’s important that we take care of ourselves and listen. For many of us, our feelings have always been based externally in substances, relationships and situations, so its hard to go inside and be present in our internal landscape.

As they say, ‘the only way through, is through.’

For years I ran away from my emotions through alcoholism, disordered eating and literally moving around the world, but problems follow us. Emotions fester in our physical bodies and warp our minds. Sooner or later, we have to face the music. There’s no way around it.

When we come to the point where we can look at ourselves truthfully, no matter how difficult that may be, our mindset can shift. We can become willing to truly feel. Those feelings move information through the physical body and it passes.

The only way we can grow towards the sun, is if we've spent some time in the mud. Click To Tweet

The Descent Before the Ascent

Not only is the only way to overcome emotions and difficult times to go through them, it’s also necessary to make a descent into the depths of ourselves and feel really uncomfortable for a while. In order to ascend and reach a newer level of understanding and insight into ourselves, we need to be ok with camping out within.

As a recovering addict, I’ve personally found myself in this descended world where grief and pain are real. Yet the lower we go, the more possible our resurrection can be, if we’re willing to work on it and deal with truly uncomfortable emotions. None of us like being uncomfortable, but that’s often the space where true transformation takes place. The only way we can grow towards the sun, is if we’ve spent some time in the mud.

Stir the Shit

It’s as if a swamp has been stirred up and the brown sludgy sediment from the bottom rises up to whirl around us.

Sitting in the shitty swamp can be debilitating and painful. Life was easier when the sludge stayed down below, untouched. I myself have felt tremendous grief lately as I continue to work my way through my addiction recovery, but I know that the only way through… is through. I can either go through this temporary state of sadness, grief and anger, or I can go back to my old ways of distraction and flee my body.

Being ok with not being ok actually feels liberating. It allows total acceptance and recognition of my feelings, which is something I never knew how to do in the past. Even though I often felt the need to describe my deep emotions, I lacked the capability and would simply say I was ‘fine’.

Acceptance of “bad” feelings

When we accept our current shitty state as a process, we practice trust in ourselves and in the universe. If you are used to pushing, striving, and escaping your emotions because they are not what you want them to be, try to simply tune in the next time you feel sad or angry. Allow yourself to really feel and embody the emotion. Feel it everywhere in your body. Be in your physical body and listen. If this feels overwhelming to you, please try it with a friend or professional.

We can help each other by creating the space to simply welcome these all-too-human emotions... Click To Tweet

Let’s Not Self-Sabotage

There’s a fine line, however, between acceptance of ‘not being ok’ and self-sabotage. In subjecting yourself to your raw emotions, it’s exceptionally important to practice self-compassion and respect. Try not to feed negative emotions and self-pity. If you find you are, speak with a friend or a professional.

Emotions make others uncomfortable

Why is society so unaccepting of real, raw emotion? Why is it that we often have friends with whom we can’t even talk about how we’re really feeling? We have to ask ourselves if we are somewhat at fault for not allowing that intimacy to be shared.

Why is it so bothersome to people if someone is crying in public? What is it about the outpouring of human emotion that makes all of us so uncomfortable? Do we believe our emotions will literally kill us if we let them out? Where did we learn this?

No one is OK all the time, and we can help each other by creating the space to welcome these all-too-human and all-too-rejected emotions — things such as sadness, anger and frustration — into our human world.

But it starts with you.

If you normally hide your sadness away, simply tell a friend the truth the next time you see them. Let them know that, yes, you are sad, and watch their response. If your friend is a decent human being, or doesn’t have issues of their own that are overwhelming, chances are you’ll welcome a new level of depth to that relationship. If not, you might just find that you were better off without it.

Either way, you’ll inevitably find that a lot of things change when you get OK with “not being OK”.