It’s Okay

8 07 2011

Me: I feel all wrong, weak, broken, shattered, depressed, afraid, tired, hopeless . . .

Therapist: Why can’t you give yourself a little leeway, a break? It’s okay for you to feel like this. What you’re going through is existential stuff. For someone else, it may be minor everyday stuff but for you, it’s existential. So, it’s okay.

—————-

Me: I feel vulnerable, sad, alone, lonely.

Friend: It’s okay that you feel like this. You’re away from home. You’re away from your safe place and your friends and your regular schedule. It’s okay.

—————-

Me to myself: What’s wrong with these people? Why do they keep telling me it’s okay? Do they not have a better answer? Do they not have a better, clearer, more logical, more structured, and above all, more satisfying explanation? I have come out of talking with them with nothing. How can I take this “It’s okay” to the bank? How is that supposed to make me feel better? I have to find someone else to talk to . . . .

And the cycle goes on.

Until.

I tried an exercise where I imagine myself being compassionate (as if, just for the sake of imagination) or I picture my imaginary compassionate friend (a much easier task). As I did this, I pictured my imaginary friend sitting next to me at times, hugging me at times, but at all times, it (?) was patting me on the back and saying, “It’s okay that you’re (insert negative emotion here). It’s understandable.” This person was understanding. Smiling. Warm. Kind. Non-judgmental. Supportive. Helpful. Understanding. Empathic. Did I mention understanding? This friend offered no explanations.

No solutions.

No suggestions.

No plans of action.

No decisions.

No “shoulds” or “musts.”

Just compassion.

Kindness.

And “it’s okay.”

Comforting. Okay. Not bad.

Then I was able to picture the compassionate me, with a hint of a kind, understanding smile. Again, “It’s okay.” But this time I heard it from me. And this time, I understood. I understood what it means. Most of my struggle comes from my reaction to how I feel. I beat myself up over being anything (angry, afraid, unsure, sad, grieving . . .). It’s as if I believe I should feel “right” at all times and never have down times. Where on earth did that come from? (I know where that came from, but maybe in another post.) So, the minute I feel depressed or anxious, I get anxious and angry about feeling depressed or anxious, and I cannot accept “It’s okay,” aspirins or painkillers. I need cures, amputations if need be. I need solutions to make it go away because I am not supposed to feel like that. But when I heard it from me, “It’s okay,” something clicked.

This is normal. There’s nothing about this that needs to be changed. The negative feelings are there, for everyone. What I need to work on is my reaction to them – acting on them or not. But I need not struggle to obliterate these feelings. And the realization that they will come to an end, that sometimes all I need to do is “sit with” them or bear them, just get past them. That it will, eventually, pass. Overwhelming relief. For the first time in my life, I received a touch of kindness from within, not from without. I could feel that ever so longed for patting hand on my back and I couldn’t believe I didn’t need to beg someone for it. Inner support. Kindness. Caring. Thinking of ways to help myself, instead of ways to beat me up and put me down.

Just to be realistic, I am not yet well-practiced in this, but the very faint, very distant little I have tasted is invaluable. Nutrition for the kindness-starved.

So that’s what my therapist and friend (and countless others) have been trying to tell me: “Try to be kind to yourself. Try to be understanding of your suffering instead of condemning it.

It’s okay.

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