A couple of weeks ago, I encountered an incredibly hostile Facebook commenter – something that’s not surprising in the world of internet anonymity. But, this wasn’t a random comment section about some political or social issue. It was a seemingly innocuous post about sharing photos on a friend’s timeline.
When people disagreed with her (she is not someone I know personally), she told them to kill themselves, as well as throwing out dozens of swear words and other insults.
It was clear from her reaction that something wasn’t right with her. Instead of lashing out back at her, something that’s difficult for many of us to resist in such situations, I wanted to tell her what I wish someone would have told me when I was in the throes of my depression:
You are okay.
Those words are words that we should say to each other more often.
When I was going through a very serious depression several years ago, I lashed out at people all of the time. It’s what happens when you feel helpless. It’s not right, but it’s something a lot of us are familiar with, sadly.
Even if you aren’t struggling with mental illness, we’ve all had bad days where we feel like everything is falling apart and we feel bound by helplessness and we rage at even the slightest inconvenience and anyone seemingly connected with it.
We do it, not because things aren’t okay, but because we feel like we aren’t okay.
Things are never going to be okay. I hated it when people told me that they would be. I knew they weren’t going to be okay, especially not since a lot of my depression was fueled (and still is) by my genetic condition. That’s something that doesn’t go away. Years later, to be honest, my life has only gotten worse. But I know one thing now that I did not know then:
Things may not be okay, but I am okay.
Stress, anger issues, and mental illness don’t go away because someone gives you advice, but support does help. It’s difficult to figure out the right words to say to someone when they are having a desperate moment, especially if that desperation bleeds out as anger.
Telling people that things are okay or that they will be okay is a big lie and anyone who’s listening to you say it knows it is. That’s why those words never resonate. It’s also why they often make people spiral further down. We know it’s not true. Things aren’t okay at the moment and no one knows what the future holds.
But what you can know is yourself.
Don’t let other people tell you who you are. You have to know yourself, and you are okay.
People struggling with depression and mental illness tend to feel like they are bad or toxic people. Society tells them that they are. Despite how much social media rallies around celebrities who go through these issues, we don’t live it in our lives with the people closest to us.
I’ve known too many people who’ve had their friends turn their backs on them. There’s that misguided, yet pervasive, belief that if you stop talking to someone who is mentally ill, especially if they are suicidal, that it will teach them a lesson – it does teach them a lesson and that lesson is one they already believe – that they aren’t worth anyone’s time because they are toxic.
If you’re going through something like that, I want you to know that you are okay.
I know it feels like you are in the center of a storm and the only way out is to spiral into a dangerous emotional direction. It may feel like you have to do it, but you don’t.
But, if you do that, you are still okay.
You, as you are right now, even if you are total mess of anger and despair – You are okay.
Images via Pexels.