Two hands hold a scrambled ball of yarn with the words "I am not okay" written in the middle.

 

I didn’t intend for this to be my first blog topic of 2024. Believe it or not, I wasn’t even planning on this tying into Mental Health Awareness Month. But here we are.

At this very moment, I have a lot going on. I’m preparing to do two days of training at one of the largest Travel Agent training events in the country. In addition, I’ll be launching a collaboration I’ve been working on for over a year. It’s the start of a series for women entrepreneurs. I also have my own mastermind program launch happening at the same time. Good times, right?

It is. Well, it should be.

 

When Life is Life-ing You’re Not (Always) Okay

I’m writing this two days after the passing of my dear uncle. He passed away on the morning of Sunday, April 7th. To honor is memory and dignity, I will only say that the last year of my uncle’s life was not an easy one, although he was able to live out his remaining months in relative peace and comfort thanks to the love and care of some family members.

We don’t know when and how life is going to life. For empaths like me, we observe and absorb other people’s emotions, sometimes to our own detriment. For the last 8 years, I have been the sponge absorbing the emotions and caring for the needs of my loved ones. It was as if I was their own personal emotional baggage valet. I did it willingly because I felt their pain was bigger than mine (in many cases it was). Nonetheless, I had my own pain due to the relationships I had with those that were lost. No, they weren’t my parents, my siblings, my child…but I felt the pain in my heart for my relationships with those we lost. Yet, I felt I had to be okay when I wasn’t. I felt that I had to swallow – numb even – my own feelings to help my family members get through their own.

No matter what the situation is – the loss of a loved one, the loss of financial stability, changes in your or a loved one’s health – there are real, raw emotions that we will carry. They are ours and, for some of us, theirs. While it can be said we have no control over our emotions, the fact of the matter is that we do. We can control, to an extent, how and when we express them. I’ll be honest, I know we can’t always control what will happen and when with our emotions. I think back to November 2016, two weeks after my mother-in-law’s sudden passing. I was at the Mary J Blige and Maxwell concert trying to have a good time. When Maxwell started singing his version of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” a song I have long loved and cried to, I suddenly and uncontrollably started bawling my eyes out. It was grief for the loss of my mother-in-law, it was the pain I felt for my husband for losing his beloved mother, it was the pain I felt for the loss I was feeling for another family member. It all suddenly came out without an invitation or an RSVP.

Even now, while everything is fresh with the loss of my uncle, I am going between crying, wanting to cry, and having to keep it together for my mom, family, and the sake of my business. And trust me, it ain’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.

In talking with my therapist (yes, I have a therapist), I was reminded that the best way I can support my mother (who lives with me) and my family during this time is to be the best version of myself. I need to keep up my habits of journaling, continuing to eat healthier, exercising, and focusing on giving my best in my business, which means showing up for my clients. Most importantly, to remember, that it’s okay to not be okay.

 

Picture of Shai facing camera and smiling because she's feeling okay despite life's challenges.

It’s okay not to be okay.

 

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay…You Will Be Again

Whether you’re a business owner or an employee, the reality is that life is going to life and we’re not always going to be genuinely okay as we work through it. When these situations happen, it’s okay to:

  • Tell people you’re not okay. We need and are entitled to support. Full stop. Therefore, tell those you feel most comfortable with that you’re not okay. You may not yet know what you need to feel okay or to get close to it. You will, though, feel better knowing you’re not hiding from your feelings or hiding your feelings from others.
  • Ask for support. This is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you are used to being the “strong one.” Sometimes…no, most of the time, we give off the air that we’re strong and don’t need additional support. We know it’s a lie (let’s keep it real!) We need support; we just don’t always want to admit it, or we fall into our old role of being all things to everyone or not wanting to be or feel vulnerable. Listen, that’s the fastest way to depression, stress, and anxiety, along with a mental and/or physical health crisis you may or may not be able to recover from. Trust me, you don’t want to do that to yourself (that’s a post for another day!). If you’re not sure how to ask for support, simply tell your family and friends to check in with you from time to time, pray for you send positive vibes, send you something funny to read, whatever. They just need to repeatedly let you know they are there when needed.
  • Admit you don’t know what you need. The fact is that sometimes we don’t know or realize when we need a hug, a phone call, a text message, or a funny meme. When it comes, and we feel a sense of relief, we realize it was right on time. So, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know what you need from your family and friends. I have often told my friends, “I don’t know what I need right now. But knowing you’re there for whatever I need when I need it is enough for today.” Then, I let them fill in the unknown space.
  • Be honest with yourself. Take a moment to be honest with yourself and admit that you’re not okay. That’s one of the biggest, hardest, and most emotional steps you can take in your journey to dealing with what life is throwing at you. “I’m not okay and that’s okay, too.”

I know, I know…many of us hear this and don’t want to do it. Yet, journaling has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and more (I could cite a ton of scientific research, but I’m not a scientist. Google is though!) The point… journaling can help work out the feelings you have, focus your thoughts, and ground your emotions. If you don’t want to “journal”, speak your thoughts into a voice recorder or write a blog post. That’s what I did with this!

While my emotions are still raw at this moment and fluctuating between grief and getting what’s needed done, I’m grateful I now know how to better manage all the “stuff” that’s going on inside of me.

I’m glad I can fully admit that I’m not okay. And, you know what…that’s okay because one day, I will be.

P.S. If you’d like to watch two Korean Dramas that deal with mental health check out “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay” which is a unique and quirky way of dealing with the topic or “Dr. Slump” which deals with burnout, depression, trauma, and PTSD in our careers in ways that are real yet with a touch of comedic relief. Both can be found on Netflix at the time of this writing. And, yes, there’s scientific data that shows watching Korean Dramas can help us with many of our mental health challenges including anxiety (look it up!)