Good old Facebook memories either have you cringing at your 13-year-old self, or reflecting really deeply. This morning I was on the reflecting side. I was reminded of a post from 2013 after our first round at DII nationals for the 4×400. We performed terribly. We were completely doubtful of ourselves and we could see the doubt in each other’s eyes. But then in the post, I wrote about how this experience was going to help teach us life lessons, that we were only going to come back stronger, and that I was so proud to be a Charger.
I reflected on this experience because that post, and many other posts like it, were a coverup for the pain I was actually feeling. I was so unable to be vulnerable, and so incredibly unable to say “I’m not fine.” It was easy to cover up the pain with a nice Facebook post, or with a smile and a laugh. I also reflect on how I would post on Facebook just to receive the validation I needed, and in the comments I just see loads of people saying how proud they were of me and my positive outlook on a bad situation. This only continued to validate my need to cover up what was really happening below the surface.
I didn’t talk about how that loss and the embarrassment of feeling like a failure, would bother me relentlessly for months. I didn’t talk about how this experience only increased my feelings of self-hatred. I didn’t talk about how that experience only led to increased anxiety and decreased performance towards reaching my goals.
I read that post and I can reflect now on how much I’ve grown. I still struggle with my mental health, but the difference is now, I am okay asking for help. The difference is now, I am okay with saying to someone that I am not okay. I can recognize the lesson in the situation, but I will also allow myself to feel. I can stay positive but also recognize that positivity doesn’t mean I never feel upset.
It can feel scary to tell people how you are feeling. It can feel scary to unveil to people who think you are doing okay, that you aren’t. But that is the first step in healing. The first step may seem scary and huge, but once you take that first step, you embark on a journey to keep walking forward, steadfast in your ability to open up a little bit more with each step. Until one day, you can tell someone you are not fine, rather than covering it up for months or longer. And by doing that, you allow yourself to begin healing. And once you begin healing, that’s when you learn those life lessons, that’s when you are able to reflect and grow and look back and say to yourself, “wow, I used to think the safest place was living behind the lie that I was okay, but I realized the safest and best place to grow, is to live closest to my truest self and not deny my feelings”.
It’s scary to tell someone that you are not okay. But by doing so, you are doing something so powerful for yourself and your mental health, and that is so incredibly beautiful.
So the next time you aren’t doing so great, rather than telling someone you are good or fine, tell them that you aren’t, and know that not being okay, is completely okay.