Often the courage comes not from hiding yourself away and getting on with it, it comes from saying “I’m not ok, I need your help”
The start of this year was tough for me. Like, I mean really tough. The sort of hard-to-put-into-words-tough that frightened me a little and left me wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Social media can be a cruel place to hang out at Christmas when your family is on the other side of the world. Take a dose of January blues, throw in some dental surgery, antibiotics, a hormone imbalance, nutrient deficiencies galore and um – things got dark. It was the height of summer but there wasn’t much light in Laura’s world. I went into hibernation. I don’t know who I was, but I wasn’t myself.
But the how’s or the why’s aren’t what I want to talk about. It’s too easy to brush off the reasons as the important bit and ignore what followed; a kind of ‘nothing to see here people‘ diversion where we put on our brave face and push on. But what followed IS important. And talking about it is just as important. Stuff happened, pressure mounted and I felt the lowest I’ve felt in, well, forever.
We’ve all been there
Feelings were all over the place. And, there I was, completely lost in them. A lifetime of reserved tears got unleashed and Kleenex sales soared. Seriously though, I want to acknowledge that sometimes we’re sad. And sometimes we’re really sad. And I want to talk about what we do when we’re there. Feeling helpless, alone, troubled, scared, emotional, confused; a combination, all of the above or more. Let’s talk about it because in varying degrees and at different times, we’ve all been there.
I’ve thought about writing this piece for a little while. I woke up in a jet-lag state a few weeks ago and wrote almost the whole thing in my head (I do that, is that weird?). Then I parked it and suddenly household chores became appealing and my apartment has never looked cleaner. Why? Because opening ourselves up enough to say how we really feel can be confronting. What will people think? Are people ready for the rawness of this life? The real ‘behind the scenes’ stuff which your Instagram feed doesn’t capture. Let’s hereby name it the filter called ‘life’.
Let it out
But, as I sit here typing this, those fears are far outweighed by the fact that this is important to me. Maybe just one person going through their own tough time gains support and knows it’s ok. Or maybe tomorrow it’ll spark a conversation or two. Maybe it will help you open up. And what’s also important to me is that when I want to share something, I dig deep. I find the courage to step up and I let it out.
One of the things I noticed myself thinking in January was ‘what right do I have to feel this way?’. My life is great. I’m doing the job of my dreams. Living in the country of my dreams. Running my own business. Living in a dream apartment. I have beautiful friends and family. What right do I have to say I’m suffering?
I was at the lowest of my lows but life was gifting me so much to be grateful for. And as I read that back just there, I realised that’s why expressing this is so important. Because I really believe everyone will be able to relate to something I share here, because we’ve all had our lows. It’s not something which only happens to some people. It doesn’t discriminate. It isn’t dependant on your life’s circumstances even. Just is real life.
There’s nothing wrong with you
Yes, the life I’ve created is amazing. But sometimes, in that amazing life, I get sad. Sometimes I get really sad. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just like there is nothing wrong with you.
I didn’t want to be going through this. I wanted someone to fix me. But I kinda had to go through it to realise there wasn’t anything to be fixed. It’s like we only want ‘good’ and we’re not willing to embrace the ‘bad’. But I learnt that’s exactly what we need to do. Embrace all. Judge none. The more we suppress, the more we depress. I couldn’t fight it and had to just let it be. I had to be ok with where I was and let it move through me. And, it did.
Don’t always be chasing the happiness train and in the process deny what’s there and real and in front of you where you are right now. I’ve learnt that happiness is in every moment, regardless of circumstances and when you accept all that is (not pick and choose only the best bits) – life becomes a whole lot easier.
Reach out for help
And for anyone else experiencing struggles, please reach out for help. There were so many people who showed up for me during that time and showed a kindness I’ll never forget. It can be tough to tell people how you really feel. I get it.
How often do you ask a friend how they are? But, how often do you ask a friend how they REALLY are? Next time ask like you want to know the answer, don’t ask just to ask. And when the question is asked of you, pause… and then be honest. They’re your friend god damn it. They don’t just love you when you’re happy. They just love you. Tell them you feel like sh!t if you feel like sh!t. It’s not a burden. It’s the truth. And truth always wins.
When I started to tell people how I felt, in varying degrees of honesty, I started to have really open honest conversations with them about their own stuff. It got deep, man. Not with everyone. Not everyone was ready to hear how I felt and I didn’t always want to share. And that’s ok too. The right people will ask the right questions at the right time and when they do, please tell them. Really tell them. Tell them during and then tell more after because the more we talk about it the more we open up and the more we let ourselves get real.
Let’s talk about mental health
We talk about health all the time. Let’s talk mental health too. Buy me a green smoothie and let’s talk about it! It’s amazing too how much comfort comes from having someone just know where you’re at. Someone to check-in with. Someone who cares. And, really one is all you need.
Some friends I didn’t tell until I felt more like myself (when bad jokes returned, I knew I was back). And then I got in trouble for not telling them. Through that process alone I realised all these wonderful people in my life who cared for me and heck, then I cried some more.
Do people ever say to you “I want your life!” Yes, I mean, quite frankly who doesn’t have a life crush on someone else’s Instagram stories, right? But please, let there be balance. Love your own life too. Not just the idea of someone else’s. Love every minute of it. Good. Bad. ALL OF IT.
‘Scroll of doom’
Social Media can be a bit like a ‘scroll of doom’ when you’re already low. I came off Facebook countless times because each time I checked it, I always felt worse. Comparisonitis sets in and jeez that dark hole can get a whole lot darker. Please, stop comparing yourself and your life to anyone else’s. STOP.IT.
Everyone, pick up your phone now and count how many unreplied-to messages you have in your phone. You had at least one didn’t you? A real-life message, from a real-life person, who real-life loves you and has cared enough to message you. Now care enough to reply. I know this because this is (at times) me. Scrolling. Comparing. Wishing. Wondering….But let’s remember, Social Media is a snapshot in time, the HIGHlights. And I’m not suggesting we need to be all about the lows. Not at all. Just don’t let it consume you, or worse distract you from what is coming up to be felt.
Hibernation doesn’t always help either. I know you don’t want to go to the gym. You don’t want to eat healthy. I know you don’t want to go to that drinks thing your friends friend is having that you said you’d go to. But, if you can (and I know you can), go for an hour. Walk around the park, do a yoga class, nourish your body with a home cooked meal, talk to a friend (openly and honestly). Be kind to yourself. Ask what you need. Then listen and do.
Oh, and that friend you’ve not heard from in a while? Don’t assume they’re just a crap friend or they don’t want to see you. Maybe they’re struggling with something. Perhaps they need you. Maybe you should ask.
I’ve never had clinical depression. And while I’ve experienced it through people close to me, I’m not suggesting in any way here that I know what someone with clinical depression experiences. But what I’m expressing is my own experience of struggle and of how I felt and of how I feel as I share it with you now.
We all have our own stuff going on but can we please agree to talk to each other about it? Support each other. Really Ask. Then really listen. Really, how are you?
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