Two years ago, had you asked me if I wanted to be happy, I would’ve told you that I would do anything for a light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel that was depression. I thought that as soon as I saw the light I would run toward it, and I would leave behind the darkest parts of me without ever looking back. So I fought, and I put the work in, and I waited for the light to peek through.
Then one day, the light was there. And yet for some reason, it scared me. I found myself stalled; I was in a much healthier place than I had been, but I still wasn’t living the life I knew I could.
In many ways, this was even harder to admit to than depression. Who would understand a fear of what was undeniably better? I convinced myself that I was singlehandedly embodying the myths associated with depression. Maybe I was seeking attention. Maybe I was lazy. Maybe I needed to just get over it.
In reality, though, that wasn’t the case. After a lot of reflection, I started to grasp what made that light so scary. I was so used to depression that it felt safe. My methods of coping, while undeniably unhealthy, were easy. And staying at rock bottom felt easier than climbing and falling again and again. I had grown so accustomed to the struggling version of myself that I wasn’t quite sure who I was when I was healthy. Surely this meant my healthy self was even more forgettable and insignificant than I imagined.
Eventually, and without me even realizing it was happening, a lot of factors came together that helped me let go and leave behind that darkness. A new project gave me a sense of purpose. A friendship formed that was based on positivity rather than mutual pain. These things helped me realize that most of my fears were unfounded.
Still, I needed to be convinced that letting go of the past was OK.
“It’s OK to not be OK” is a message I believe wholeheartedly. It’s a phrase I’ve heard a thousand times and will say a thousand more. We don’t talk about the opposite message as often because it seems so obvious, but I think it’s equally important: It’s OK to be OK.
It’s been over a year since I started to embrace the light at the end of the tunnel, and once in a while I still need to remind myself that being content isn’t a synonym for “waiting to sink again.”
Finding safety in the familiar doesn’t mean you’re seeking attention or choosing to be depressed. The unfamiliar can be scary, even when it is undoubtedly healthier, happier, and freer. Healing doesn’t mean admitting that none of your struggles mattered. It doesn’t mean you are leaving behind the people who are still hurting. It doesn’t mean that you no longer have permission to hurt or ask for help. It doesn’t mean that you are setting yourself up for a fall.
I have spent so much time reflecting on and reliving my hardest moments.
But starting now, I am embracing this “OK-ness.”
I am OK, and I am grateful for the journey that got me here.
I am OK, and I matter just as much as when I wasn’t.
I am OK, and I am still allowed to have bad days and ask for help.
I am OK, and that makes me excited for the future instead of fearful.
I am no longer spending my days desperately searching for the light at the end of the tunnel or wishing for the comforts of the past. This is an entirely new chapter in a long story, but I finally believe that where I am right now is exactly where I am supposed to be.
Wherever you are in your journey, OK, not OK, or somewhere in between – you matter, you’re living an important story, and however you feel is OK.
– Jessica Cooney, TWLOHA Fall 2013 Intern