This past weekend a friend reached out to vent, in some serious emotional pain. I jumped into "fix it mode" and overzealously told her changes that had to be made for everything to be okay. It didn't turn out well, for obvious reasons, because it's not what she needed in that moment. And we all have times like that, where we know things aren't going well, but nothing seems to help no matter how much of a good idea it is. It can be uncomfortable to not have a tidy solution to whatever train wreck a family member has caused in your life, or some messy relationship issue that's super complex, or whatever other person/situation from the past that makes a guest appearance (or they may have a starring role in our life) unleashing our insecurities/unhappiness/anxiety, etc.
I've definitely had moments like that, and I've come to realize that sometimes the best any of us can do is to give ourselves permission to not be okay. Like yes this sucks and no I don't know what I'm going to do about it but I'm still here. And you know what, today that's enough for me.
Having coping skills is definitely healthy, but you don't want to "cope" your way out of listening to yourself and your emotions.
Resisting the urge to "fix" takes a lot of trust and letting go of the need to control your circumstances. This may sound scary because it can feel like you're giving up your power, and yes it definitely is scary; but you are only giving up the illusion of controlling certain circumstances. When you surrender to your individual process, you are trusting in your resilience, and reminding yourself that you've been through really fucking hard things before and you're still here.
So maybe the next time you're not okay all you do is take a second to acknowledge it. Name what you're feeling and why (maybe just to yourself, write it down, or share it with someone else). Let yourself feel and breathe through it, because we are not our emotions, and our emotions are not permanent states of being. We aren't our anger or our sadness or whatever uncomfortable emotion we try to avoid. We can feel them when they come, acknowledge their message, and check in with ourselves about what we need moment to moment as we let go of them.
But if we fix and fix and fix, or sweep it under the rug, it can get stuck and come back out to mess with you just when you think you have your shit together. And yes denial works moment to moment, but long term emotional numbing can prevent you from feeling anything fully and genuinely, even happiness! So yea you can lie to yourself and say that it doesn't hurt, you're not sad, you're not angry, you're "strong". But closing that emotional door to protect yourself doesn't discriminate; you can lose touch with the positive emotions too and ultimately you're closing the door on being connected to your whole self.
There is something so valuable on the other side of pain. People who have withstood emotional pain have incredible resilience and strength that allows them to reach others in a special way. They have seen opposite ends of the spectrum of the human experience, making them somewhat of an expert in healing, especially their own. So what I should have said to my friend I'll say now, and to anyone else who needs it:
There is so much beauty in you, and the simplest things that you do are a testament to your strength because sometimes it's a really heavy load to carry. Just by not giving up you are actually making a difference, not just for you but for everyone around you.
Its okay to not be okay, trust your process.
Bonus Challenge: when you're having one of those optimistic moments where you can see a glimmer of hope at the other side of what you're going through, write yourself a letter. Use that as a reminder when shit gets a little too heavy. You got this.
Love and light,
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; and you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief" - Khalil Gibran