I stood outside a crowded room today, taking slow breaths and trying to coax my feet into moving towards the room. Inwardly I begged them to move, begged my mind to be still enough to just get it done, to walk in and be present and then in a few hours, I could go hide away and deal with the clouds that were blurring my vision.
“You don’t have to go in.” my friend Beth told me. “It’s okay to not go sometimes. It’s okay to drink coffee instead.” she smiled a little and picked up her bag, nodding towards the staircase that led outside. I picked up my bag as well and we walked, and were soon joined by someone whose job it is to tell us to be present in that room.
He placed hands on each of our shoulders and laughed, “It’s okay. Are you alright?” he asked. I didn’t answer, but Beth did. She explained that we needed coffee and we needed rest, and that a crowded room wasn’t where we could be at this particular moment. He understood and didn’t make a fuss.
It’s okay, you know? It’s okay on days when you’re not okay, and that’s something we need to remind each other. In our culture that tells us to brush ourselves off and keep going, it’s okay to pause and be still and take a little while to still your shaking hands and slow your racing heart. It’s okay to shed some tears, and it’s okay to need nothing more than a cup of coffee and honest conversation with a friend.
It’s okay to not be okay.
A few months ago I told myself to harden up and keep going, and I made it through most of the day, only to wind up sitting and shaking to the side of a room, unable to explain myself or really do anything. It took about a week to recover from the fatigue of that day, because the energy required for me to keep going when depression has a vice grip on my heart and mind is much more than the energy required to catch up on what I’ve missed after giving myself time to recover from a bad moment.
To stop and breath doesn’t make me less, and it doesn’t make you less. To spend an hour with tear filled eyes, admitting your fear and failure, doesn’t make you weak. To stand in the sunshine, focusing on the warmth you feel from those precious rays rather than your cloudy mind, does not make you strange. Because, my friend, it’s okay.
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to take the time to do what you need to do to be okay.
I’ve got an hour between lectures right now, and I’m curled up in a corner with my laptop, a thermos of tea, and my headphones in as I write. I need to speak these words to myself as much as you need to hear them for yourself.
And you & I? We’re going to be okay.