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Life Class: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

The fragility of life grips us at our knees and freezes every thought. I vividly remember struggling to feel my legs beneath me when running on the treadmill as the television at the gym announced that someone I knew had ended their life. My initial thought then as it is now when life’s messages echo that news was “it can’t be them. It just wouldn’t make any sense”. But to who, I’ve challenged my own thought.

When the news first breaks social media becomes rich with hash tags and love loaded thoughts and questions from a place that means well but fails to make sense of the answers we seek: how could someone so loved, or so successful, or so rich, or so popular, or so happy choose to leave us? Ending with, “Nothing is ever that serious”. And I ask again, to whom?

Al Alvarez very eloquently penned that the “decision to take your own life is as vast and complex and mysterious as life itself”. In that one line I think he appropriately sums up the mystery we will never solve.

Behind smiles and beneath the appearance of “everything being okay” are cells and a brain communicating their own message. Some thoughts private internal struggles and some messages remain incomprehensible even to the immediate audience. And the answer to “how are you” becomes an automatic “fine”, as how else would you explain to another that which you yourself don’t understand. If you were to unmute your authentic voice would you be met with open ears willing to understand what it doesn’t understand or comments such as “I’ll pray for you”, “sounds like____”, “oh you’ll feel better” or “when you think about all those who didn’t wake up this morning you have a lot to be thankful for”. Instead of clearing the cloud, the listener sometimes unknowingly pushes it further in with ready responses and a missile ready to launch the stigma associated with any human shell who seeks professional mental help.

The ironies of life so often see those in their greatest need able to give to others that which they cannot give to themselves. Great laughs, unconditional love, encouragement, deep soul connections and selfless acts of kindness. All being pumped from a brain wired on giving the best to everyone outside of its own home.

I have a confession: I do not know what it feels like to be clinically depressed or have a chemical imbalance of any kind. Nor am I a trained medical professional to offer a diagnoses or medication if needed. I haven’t physically walked to the ledge and wanted to escape life so I won’t sit before you and preach words from a sermon entitled: “I know how you must feel”, because truthfully I don’t.

But here’s what I believe. We are more alike than different in this human race. No one better than the next, we simply wear our troubles and fight our battles differently. Our wiring though unique, journeys to the same place. It desires to find ‘home’. Where there is love, there is peace, understanding, and where it’s wanted. Above all else I believe we want to be completely free. Free to not be okay and not be judged for it. Free to share and not be stoned by opinions that were not asked for. Free to discover ourselves and not be defined by our deepest struggles. To experience living unconditionally: a place where we feel comfortable to have a public private life in safe company where our struggles are concerned. No one is idolized or ostracized which releases the pressure to appear perfect. Inside our beautiful minds, little pockets of huddled secrets desire to be set free. It craves a little space to take off the mask, breathe and expose the truth of what’s really going on. It yearns to no longer be stifled by a hunch that if you’re told and shown the rawness of ones deepest struggles then they won’t be accepted or belong or be considered normal, in addition to having to contend with opinions they didn’t ask for. So in their mission to hold everything together, they’re falling apart and we don’t even know it.

The reality: No one is ‘normal’ and no one is perfect. We are all fighting something that has the potential to take us downstream. When the currents get too strong, signal in any way you can for help as we don’t want to make it without you. I want to give to you what you give to me. I want above all else for you to know that you matter. You are bold and beautiful and loved and needed. Life wants nothing more than for you to experience it freely. And I want nothing more than for you to know its okay to not be okay and clear a path needed to take baby steps that lead to help you need. What good will it be, if we don’t make it together?

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