I definitely can’t be the only person who has gone through life with a fake smile, pretending like everything was fine when it really wasn’t. This happens far too often. Whether it’s a quick encounter of “how are you today?” at the grocery store or a serious facade when surrounded by friends all day, every day, someone in the world is pretending they are “OK.” Not all the time, but more and more, I am learning to be okay with not being okay.
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One of the biggest struggles I have faced in my adult life was the transition I made from living with my emotions on my sleeve to hiding them nicely under a smile and a well-chosen outfit as an adult.
When I was a kid, I was happy to let everyone know when I wasn’t ok. Whether it was because I had to eat vegetables for dinner or because my best friend didn’t play with me on the playground, there was no hiding my disappointment or anger.
The teenage years were quite the same. I had no problem with coming home, stomping my feet up the steps because my crush totally didn’t talk to me that day. If my mom didn’t let me go to a friend’s house, I was more than content to give everyone the silent treatment for the next 3 days.
These years weren’t exactly fun, and I didn’t manage my anger well by any means but the thing is…I knew when I was angry. I knew when I wasn’t okay.
I’m not sure whether it is adulthood or motherhood or both that made me get to the point where I really felt like not being okay was not okay anymore.
Not only was tantrum throwing no longer acceptable, but I often found myself with so many other people’s emotions to manage that my own kind of fell by the wayside.
Now it was my kids coming home from a bad day. Dealing with bullies, bad grades, self-image or someone not sharing. If my kids’ had bad days, the fact that we bounced another check, I gained 5 more pounds and Tom and I got in a major fight and were no longer speaking just didn’t seem to matter.
They kids sure didn’t care.
Most of my friends were still partying and spending their summers in bikinis while I was nursing and raising a 10-year-old. They definitely didn’t understand…which made it hard for them to really care.
When I was isolated at home as a stay at home mom, Facebook was really my only connection to the outside world. I didn’t love mommy and me groups, I couldn’t relate to my neighbors and honestly…I was struggling big time.
But you know what? As much as people bitch and complain about everyone being “fake” on social media, I quickly realized that not being okay was even less appreciated.
I don’t know the exact posts, or what was happening that day but sometimes, I needed help. I needed a friend and when I felt like I had no one to call or text, I would share a struggle on Facebook.
Do you know what would happen? No one would respond.
I felt even more alone and more not okay. So I would stop talking about my struggles and instead would share cute pictures of finger painting or nap times…because people responded to those. People “liked” those photos or commented on them. I got a response when everything was “okay.”
Disclaimer: There is a difference to me between someone genuinely struggling and someone using Facebook as an outlet to start their own reality show. When there are people who always have a huge, new problem or are happy to air all of their dirty laundry on Facebook…I keep scrolling. I don’t comment, I don’t like, I don’t feed into it. but when someone shares that they are struggling or feeling depressed, I try to leave words of encouragement. Because like me, I can only imagine those people are feeling so alone that FACEBOOK feels like their only source of hope. Facebook. Let them know that it is okay not to be okay and that you are there. An actual person is there.
Men are so different from women. In case no one picked up on that yet. Being a stay at home mom was very trying, especially when I isolated myself the way that I did.
There were days I didn’t want to keep going, but I did. Days I wanted to just give up. But I was too afraid to leave the house messy. I mean, I was a stay at home mom, this was my job after all.
What would Tom think if he came home and the house was messy? He always commented when I would forget to toss a dirty diaper. It was so gross he would tell me.
The fact that I threw 4 others away, wiped 18 snotty noses, made 3 meals from scratch, picked up all the toys 22 times, made a trip to the park and kept his children healthy, well fed and happy didn’t come up in the conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, Tom is a wonderful and supporting husband but when he would come home and comment on the one thing I didn’t do perfectly that day, that was the only thing I paid attention to. To me, I heard that it wasn’t okay to not be perfect.
I sure didn’t want to complain about my day. After all, he was the one bringing home the money. He had to leave for work. My day wasn’t something I should complain about.
Who cares if I felt lonely, depressed and like I was failing as a mom. He had a rough day so I had better find a way to be okay.
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I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I decided I was going to stop faking being okay and start learning to be okay with not being okay.
When I would check out at the grocery store after 7 sleepless nights in a row and 2 angry toddlers in my cart I would happily tell the grocery clerk that I wasn’t okay.
No, I didn’t have a meltdown and break into tears like I wanted to.
I would simply say, “Ugh, it’s been a tough week! Thank goodness it’s Friday!” (As if Friday mean my job as a mom stopped for 2 days.)
I recently read a book called Mom Truths. It’s awesome and I highly recommend it. In the
Instead of just whining about my bad day, I would try to find metaphors or ways to explain to Tom what I was feeling. Things like, “Kaida cried all day. Did you know they use recordings of crying babies as torture in POW camps?” AKA I survived actual torture today. What did you do?
I have worked at doing my best to let Tom know when I wasn’t okay. On top of that I let him know that any negative thing he had to say only made me feel worse.
Why is it that we as moms think we have always got to have it together for our kids? We want to seem strong and capable all the time. Like impossible superheroes.
One day I decided if I could put my kids on a time out, why couldn’t I go on one myself?
Telling my kids I need a break or warning them that I am not okay is a great way to teach them to be aware of their own emotions. It teaches them at a young age that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.
For years, I had buried my not okay emotions so deep that I honestly stopped knowing when I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t that dramatic teenager anymore who let the whole world know when she was stressed out so how I was supposed to even know when I was having a bad day?
Now I’m learning to slow down and pay attention to any small negative feelings and to accept that they are there.
I’m learning to be okay with not being okay.
I don’t have to fix, pretend or ignore the fact that I’m not okay. In fact, the healing process will be much quicker if I just allow myself to be in the “icky” place for a while.
Sometimes I think my being okay with not being okay attitude is off-putting to people. It might make them uncomfortable. But, I personally find my honesty refreshing.
At dinners with friends I have casually said, “Yeah, Tom and I are struggling in our marriage right now.”
Not because I want attention but because it’s normal for a marriage to be sucky sometimes. I want my friends to know that some days my marriage is hard. Really hard. I want them to know it’s okay if theirs is too and they don’t have to pretend like it’s okay.
More recently, after losing my stepdad to cancer, I have openly told people, “I am struggling right now. I cried for 3 days straight.” I don’t need their sympathy or attention but I do need them to know that right now I am not fully myself. I don’t want to attend your book party or get our kids together for a playdate because right now I’m just sitting in that “icky” place. I’m grieving and I don’t have anything to give right now.
So how do you actually just sit in the hard times in life? How do you just sit in the “icky” place?
My 3 best pieces of advice are:
No matter what, I promise things will be okay. Maybe not great, maybe not phenomenal. Your whole life might be changed…but you will one day actually be okay.