How do we talk about not being okay?
Being vulnerable is that scary, that human. It’s scary to risk rejection because we have been a sloppy mess in front of someone. It’s scary for society to witness the breakdown.
The alternative, however, is that we stuff our feelings until we explode. Or we manipulate others so we don’t have to feel. Or we try to control everything until we cannot function anymore. None of these are good ways to deal with feeling like a mess, but ironically, those methods can seem more functional in the short run. They give an illusion of power — power over oneself, power over other people, power over situations.
I have very raw moments in my life. Although it’s kept well under control, I have a mental disorder. I have breakthrough times in February and October. During those times, I have sleep disturbances that keep me exhausted, severe anxiety, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed. I have to talk about it because it’s an overwhelming bad feeling and, at the time I have it, I feel like it’s always been there and will always be.
I’ve come up with some rules for myself on how to talk about not being okay:
- Choose wisely who you will talk to and how much to disclose.
- Mere acquaintances might rate an “I’m under the weather right now.”
- Coworkers might rate very simple situational statements, like “My father died.”
- Good friends, if they can handle things, might rate a description of what’s going on with some frankness, like “I have seasonal affective disorder right now and I’m doing pretty poorly.” This list is to protect you from the people who might reject you or the message.
- The best thing, though, is to approach people who are supportive toward you.
- Don’t use your friends as therapists.
- Don’t rehearse negative scenarios on them and expect them to argue endlessly against you.
- Also, don’t unleash your worst behavior on them. Treat them like friends and honor their feelings.
- Apologize if you have behaved badly, just as you would when you’re not overwhelmed.
- Do not expect your friends to keep dangerous secrets, like suicidal or homicidal ideations, for you.
If you are dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, or other mental health issues, your best support system is not a substitute for therapy, whether that be psychotropic prescriptions, talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or others. Reach out to your health care providers or get yourself some providers on your side.
I hope this has been helpful. I feel like I’ve clarified some things for me, and I hope that I’ve helped others think about this, because all of us have heavy times.