“Sometimes when I say ‘I’m OK,’ I want someone to look at me in the eyes, hug me tight, and say ‘I know you are not.’ —Unknown
Only within the last few years have I learned that I’m not alone when I’m in a dark emotional place. Most of my life, I thought I was the only one who ever felt lonely, anxious, scared, depressed, sad and riddled with negative thoughts. Over the years of connecting with people through my work and with my friendships have I learned that it’s normal to go into lonely and dark places.
In the last few months, our whole planet has ventured into struggles that none of us have ever experienced before. Some of us may have contended with our demons early on in this, some may have remained consistently feeling dark, and some may just be entering into feelings that are confusing and scary.
I want to remind us all, it’s OK not to be OK. It’s OK to struggle, it’s OK to reckon with the sides of ourselves that are hard to accept. When we’ve battled our own demons and fought ourselves back into the light we’ve gained compassion and wisdom that isn’t achievable elsewhere. Wisdom isn’t bestowed, it’s earned through experience.
I am pretty sure we all have dark thoughts at one point or another. Like you’ve wandered into a tunnel and can’t see the light. It feels dark and lonely, as though you’re being swallowed up by the thoughts in your mind.
Sometimes my head is like a bad neighbourhood that you wouldn’t want to wander into at night. There is potential for a knife fight, or to be kidnapped and shoved into a dark space where you may never be rescued.
When my mind wanders into unwelcome territories, I know it’s time to do my work. I need to dig into my toolkit and find a lifeline to a more comfortable zone. If you don’t have a toolkit, here are some ways to create one:
- Find a ‘go to’ friend (or friends) that you can call on when things feel desperate. Someone that you can confide in and trust. Let them know you feel dark, and that you just need someone to talk to who will listen and be supportive. I have and I have friends who, when they have gone into that deep dark neighbourhood of their minds, have called people they trust to come and be with them, to sleep beside them, to hold them because they know that, in that moment, they are incapable of holding themselves or trusting themselves.
- Get outside. Move, feel the fresh air, walk, run, hike, bike, breath deep and break a sweat. Do whatever it is that feeds you when you are connecting with nature.
- Watch funny TV shows or films. Keep it light. Avoid the temptation to indulge in entertainment that builds on your despair.
- Dance. For goodness sake, just dance! By yourself or with friends. Play your favorite upbeat song, and if you need to fake it, then fake it until you feel something lighten on the inside.
- Be of service to someone else that needs help. This is such an important act. The moment you stop giving all your attention to your own plight you will be able to open up and see the greater world. Hopefully you will see how you can improve it.
- Go see your doctor or better yet mental health practitioner. If you are feeling like none of these things are working, get yourself to the nearest doctor and ask/cry/beg for help.
It can feel like these feelings will last forever. Darkness is like that; it tends to blind us from truth and disconnect us from our light. Remember that this too shall pass. Eventually you will begin to feel lighter. Keep reminding yourself of that.
Remember that when we look at someone we often see what they want us to see. Maybe they are projecting that they have it all figured out. Perhaps we assume that success in life sets us up for a life without struggle. Remember that our assumptions that someone is ‘strong’ or ‘capable,’ or our thoughts that they have nothing to be sad about are incredibly narrow minded. These are limiting thoughts and ideas that create separation instead of connection.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember it is OK not to be OK. It’s OK to be dealing with something that feels too big to deal with on your own. It is OK to lean on those that make you feel comfortable.
Remember, you are not your thoughts. I know this is hard to remember when thoughts have dictated almost all the ways we interact in the world. But trust me, you are so much greater than your thoughts would lead you to believe.
You are capable of great things, including changing your emotional state. Learn to trust that knowledge, and it will change your life.
“People who need help often don’t look like those that do.” —Glennon Doyle