it’s ok to not be ok
Excerpt from a piece by Jenny Zhang titled Saving Yourself.
When I was a teenager, I felt like the adults in my life were constantly telling me that I was really lucky and that my problems were trivial, and like, in 20 years, I would see how good I had it. I hated hearing that, because who wants to wait 20 years to be able to say, MY PROBLEMS WERE AND ARE STILL REAL. Let’s just get this over with now: YOUR PROBLEMS ARE REAL. It doesn’t matter if someone says to you, “You don’t seem like the kind of person who gets depressed,” because there is no “kind of person” who gets depressed. There isn’t a category of people who have sole proprietary rights to depression.
Not being OK can look a million different ways. There are some very visible warning signs of not being OK, but there are also lots of ways in which a person’s pain can seem invisible. My friends who are cutters, my friends who are public criers, my friends who write poetry about their blood and guts, my friends who abuse alcohol and drugs on a regular basis—their pain has always been so, so visible. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that your pain isn’t legit if you’re the one who is listening to your friend’s sad poetry, or the one who holds your friend’s hair back when she pukes. Pain can be dramatic and sharp and obvious, but it can also be muted and nuanced and inconspicuous.
Be honest with yourself and what is realistic and healthy for you. If a lot of people are relying on you for support, assure them that you very much want to be there for them, but that you need to be there for yourself as well—not just as well but first. Don’t feel guilty for needing that time away from other people’s problems. Spend time with people who make you happy and hold you up. Spend time with your favorite books and records and movies. Listen to “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige on repeat until you’re flying through the streets of your happiest dreams.
It can be an ugly thing to talk about the toll it takes on us to be there for others. We all want to be the most patient, amazing, kind, and generous friend/girlfriend/sister/daughter we can be to the people in our lives who need us. But we have to remember to take care of ourselves—after all, we can’t be there for our loved ones if we’re falling apart. And sometimes, the best way to take care of yourself is to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t right now,” so that later, when you can, you will be whole and strong, and really, that’s all that any of us can ever hope to be
full article - rookie mag