It’s Okay Not to Be Okay.

A couple days ago I was a little down, which is an understatement.

It happens to all of us at one time or another, especially this year. This particular horrible day was the first one in a long time for me, thank goodness: I have many, many more good days than bad. Terrible days like that one are a huge contradiction to who I normally am: a chipper and optimistic person who is also a great cheerleader and excellent cheerer-upper for others. Days like that one can be confusing and/or totally shocking to those who know me well, but nobody has good days one hundred percent of the time. In addition, I really do believe that those of us who are known for being happy and “up” so much of the time tend to contrast that by sinking to the lowest of the low. (Check on your strong friends!)

Unfortunately, whenever I have had down days this year, my mental state has tanked completely for about 24 hours and then takes a day or two to recover and bounce back.

2020, am I right???

I knew it was coming right before bedtime the night before: I felt a dark cloud appear over my head and I couldn’t shake it off. When I woke up in the morning, I was immediately on the verge of tears. I cried during the first ten minutes of my dance workout, believe it or not. I cried for the vast majority of the day, especially when things went wrong, which was constantly. In fact, pretty much nothing went right for me and I remember saying things like, “I give up” and “I’m done” many times, through huge tears.

By four in the afternoon, while I looked on the outside like the kind of disheveled hot mess that appears after hours and hours of crying, inside I felt like Ferris Bueller’s best friend Cameron, when he had his breakdown: totally catatonic. I was the epitome of the phrase “I can’t even,” except multiplied by one thousand: I JUST COULD NOT. AT ALL.

In addition to the tears, I couldn’t get warm to save my life. I had the fire going, I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and I was on the couch under two blankets. I was freezing. It’s one of my least favorite stress responses because the extreme chill comes from deep on the inside, and in those hours that depth seems bottomless.

Say what you want about performing some kind of self care or distracting activity in order to get out of a situation like that; I say that sometimes the best self care is doing nothing at all but waiting it out.

Jim has gotten very good at handling these dark storms. I have communicated to him many times in the past that as much as he wants to, he can’t fix it and I just need to get through it. I know that when these meltdowns happen, I almost always wake up the following day feeling exhausted, but mentally better. And if not on the day immediately after, then definitely the day after that. He has learned that, too. The other day he was there to hold my hand and be my shoulder to cry on, telling me that he was sorry that he couldn’t fix it but that if I needed anything he’d take care of it. I’m very lucky.

I’m lucky to have friends who are right on the other end of a text, too.

Just like usual, I did wake up the next day feeling exhausted but mentally better. A sunrise is a wonderful start to a do-over.

This is all to say that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes, not just during this completely absurd year but in any year, in any month, on any day. If you’re going through a storm of your own, just be good to yourself and do whatever you need to do to get through it. If you have a partner or someone else in your home who can support you, lean on them. If not, lean on friends. (Hi, I’m available!) If you have both, lean on both. You’ll be okay again, I promise. We all will.

PSA: If you find that you have lots more bad days than good ones and can’t seem to climb out of the dark, please seek professional help. This year has magnified existing problems, created new problems, and put a huge strain on everyone’s mental health. There’s no shame in getting help, whether it’s through therapy, medication, or a combination of both. If you find yourself having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 24/7 for free and confidential support.

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