Haley Saffren

No one is okay all of the time.  At one point or another, everyone goes through a rough patch in their life.  Some problems may be more extreme than others, like a loved one dying or financial troubles, but even the seemingly small difficulties can cause sensitivity, discomfort, stress, frustration, or even rage.  People are often quick to deny something is wrong and may try to internally handle the problem to the point where the phrase, 'I’m fine,' becomes a distress signal for 'I’m not okay.'  This denotes the unfortunate trend towards internalizing emotions and not sharing how we feel - and it’s a dangerous norm.  It’s time to change the belief that ignoring or misinterpreting our unhappiness is the healthy way to handle it; it’s not.

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The root of the problem lies in the seemingly universal notion that burying your feelings is the right thing to do.  In certain situations, it’s even preferred.  Therefore, no one will know, no one will judge you, and you’ll be viewed as a strong and capable individual.  For example, if an employee is unhappy with their boss, they feel the need to keep quiet so they’re seen as a good and loyal employee and won’t live with the fear of losing their job.  Which is the greater evil that can cause more harm to you: being unhappy at your job or losing your job?  A more extreme example is if someone has a mental illness or thinks they have a mental illness.  They’re often told they’re crazy for believing it because since they can control how they feel, they should be capable of controlling their actions.  Situations like these perpetuate the harmful message that it’s not okay to not be okay.  Everyone has their own personal issues, and everyone needs to recognize and handle them to find a happy existence.  The root of the problem can be addressed through seemingly simple means: communication.

The only person who truly knows how you’re feeling is you.  The people in your life can pick up signals and inquire, but it’s up to you to decide whether you want to let others know you’re in a bad place.  If you’re uncertain about who to go to, think of someone you trust and can converse with who produces a positive, enlightening, and fulfilling exchange.  If you don’t have that person in your life, you can also find them through a trained [medical] professional.  Don’t let others tell you your feelings are not valid.  They are, and they always will be.  This is also true for the people around you. Remember that even though your feelings are valid, other people’s are as well.  So, the way you may be feeling does not automatically give you the right to impact another person through actions that may be harmful.  Be aware and focus on your feelings because your psyche is worth it.

Communication is a big step, but even before the communication process begins, there must be acceptance.  People are so quick to compartmentalize and neatly put away their feelings that sometimes they, themselves, are not aware of how they truly feel.  This is especially true when it comes to emotions like sadness, shame, and grief.  Some people don’t have an issue with communicating with others; their issue lies in acknowledging and accepting that they aren’t okay.  Repressing valid emotions isn’t only overwhelming, but also leads to a poor mental state and can cause people to act out in unhealthy ways.  Acceptance is the first step.  Accepting that you aren’t okay is okay.  It’s also necessary for short and long term mental/emotional health.  Unfortunately, this is incredibly hard to do for a lot of people, but it’s possible for everyone.

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Repressing valid emotions isn’t only overwhelming, but also leads to a poor mental state and can cause people to act out in unhealthy ways.

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When I was in middle school and high school, I never told anyone how I was feeling.  There were times when I didn’t even know what was wrong, so how could I express it or expect others to figure it out for me?  I felt like telling others about my problems was wrong and doing so placed an unnecessary burden on them.  Even now, there’s a little part of me that still feels that way, even though I now know it’s better for my mental state to let others know I’m struggling.  It led to a lot of nights where I’d lay in bed and cry myself to sleep.  When I eventually allowed others to help me, I finally realized there was nothing wrong with my sadness.  I was ultimately able to learn it wasn’t wrong for me to feel sadness, stress, or disappointment.  It was okay.  Addressing my sadness highlighted the path to my goals and my personal happiness.  Near the end of high school, I started figuring out that talking about my problems with people I valued and trusted was the better way of coping than trying to act like everything was always okay.  It took me so long to finally allow myself to open up, but I promise, it’s so worth it.

It’s a person’s individual decision whether or not to open up about the negative feelings they experience.  I realized I wanted to do it because those unrealized negative feelings were causing me harm.  I didn’t do it because I was forced into it.  In your own time and way, accept the fact you may be struggling, and it’s okay you’re not in a happy place every waking second.  For your own well-being, don’t let that moment drag into days, months, or years.  Regardless of the methods you choose, always remember this: it’s okay not to be okay.

 

Haley Saffren is a rising junior at Emerson College.  She is a writing, literature, and publishing major.  Haley hopes to one day be a successful publisher and writer.

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