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I’m Not Okay… and That is Okay

(A personal reflection on toxic positivity)

If you know me, I am usually a pretty happy person. One of those people who are obnoxiously happy without coffee, chronically optimistic and will smile even when the whole world is on fire. I relate heavily to the “This is Fine” meme, where the whole house is on fire, but it’s still fine. I try to take positivity and spread it where and when I can. However, this month, we’re going to discuss something a little less less… happy. Because this month, I am not okay. For as long as I can remember, I would try and mask when I wasn’t okay. Try to convince everyone (including myself) that life is absolutely amazing. When it finally became too heavy, I would simply explode. And unfortunately, the blast zone was almost guaranteed to be catastrophic. So, I’m sitting here today, telling you that I am not okay. Only this time, I’m not pretending to be.

For everyone in the back, hear me loud and clear, it is okay to not be okay. This month, alone, I am processing grief like I haven’t been challenged to do so before in my 30 years of life. I recently lost a cherished friend, while simultaneously receiving news that a family member’s cancer had spread. I think even if I read a million books, I would never find the word adequate enough to explain the emotion of watching a loved one’s health rapidly decline. To watch someone I love so much turn into a version of themselves that I don’t recognize isn’t something I was prepared for. I doubt I ever could be. They always say April’s showers bring May flowers. I just didn’t expect those showers to come from my own heart and tears.

While coping with loss in the world, unfortunately life still goes on. I still have to clock in and out for work, emails still need to be answered, homework still needs to be done and a sweet 8 year old still needs me as Mom. In a knee jerk reaction, I am tempted to mask the struggle. To put on a smile and tell everyone “it’s okay” while the weight of it all slowly drowns me. However, in my older (and much wiser) years, I am learning to put the mask down. I do not understand my need to pretend that I am stronger than I actually am. I have never once been shamed for being overwhelmed, exhausted or sad. So, why do I feel the constant need to not share that side of myself with the world? How have I allowed toxic positivity (the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset) to consume my own life?

Toxic positivity not only invalidates the emotional state, but also increases secondary emotions. Instead of validating my own sadness, my own grief; I allowed myself to believe I was in the wrong for experiencing those emotions. That somehow there is something shameful or guilty in feeling sad. In attempt to correct that, I am allowing myself the opportunity to simply sit with myself. All of the pain, the sadness and confusion; I am welcoming with arms wide open. I am trusting my loved ones to love me while I am not myself. I am showing myself grace and patience. I am allowing the laundry to stay unfolded and not feeling guilty for take out two nights in a row. I am allowing myself to let calls go to voicemail and mind numbly watch my favorite comfort show. I am worried less about keeping my diet and eating when I can. I am not as productive in my life and not as quick to respond to texts right now. But I am still me. I am not lost. I am not broken. I am not less then. I am processing and healing. I am putting forth energy where I can in order to prioritize what I need to do. I am comfortable leaning into the silence. I am not okay… But, I am content in not being okay for the time being.

So, I ask you to remember this. It’s okay if you’re also not okay. Your emotions do not make you less then. Your shoulders were not made to carry the weight of the world. Allow others to help you with whatever is holding you down. Allow others to love you so fiercely that they keep the fire within you lit until you can lit it on your own again. Remember that an abnormal emotion to an abnormal situation is a normal response. We do not get to pick and choose the emotions we experience. Allowing ourselves not to feel okay involves accepting all feelings, thoughts, or sensations, and sitting with them until they pass. If we try to avoid, suppress, or ignore them, they will only grow stronger and leave us overwhelmed and believing that we cannot cope.

Remember that no emotion is permanent. Anger and sadness, just like happiness and joy, come and go. We need to let ourselves experience painful feelings if we ever want to truly let them pass through us. It is okay to not feel okay right now. You should feel whatever emotions you want to feel. Take your time. I am here with you and I am listening. You are allowed to feel this way. Your feelings are valid. Feel them. Sit with them. Let them pass. And let others ride the wave of whatever emotions they’re feeling too. It’s okay. The sun will shine again. Better days will come. And the flowers will be so beautiful in May.

Kelcee Sitzes, M.S. is a graduate student studying Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in Substance Abuse Disorders. She is employed with Counseling Associates as a Forensics QBHP/Mental Health Liaison and Care Coordinator. She is a wife, girl mom and a plant enthusiast.

If you need help or might need help, please reach out at:

Crisis Line: 988

Text to Chat Crisis Line: 988 (pretty cool new feature)

Arkansas Crisis Center:

Trevor Project: 1-888-488-7386

Trevor Project Text to Chat Crisis Line: 678678

AFSP Arkansas Chapter:

Arkansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center:

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