Many of us have internalized the message that we need to be strong. Very often that results in us sweeping our emotions under the rug, trying to ignore them and soldier on. But this only makes us weaker because our bottled up emotions accumulate until one day, the dam bursts and our emotions spill over with the ferocity of a raging flood. Leaving us overwhelmed.
Being strong doesn’t always look like strength. Sometimes being strong is having the courage to be honest with yourself and face those scary emotions. It’s not easy, but the only (healthy) way out is through.
I wrote this poem a few months ago, during a very challenging time for me. I’ve hesitated to share it, because I’m not used to being open and vulnerable, and laying bare my insecurities for all the world to see.
But when I was struggling, it helped to read about other people’s similar struggles, in particular Matt Haig‘s “Reasons To Stay Alive” and “Notes On A Nervous Planet”. It helped to know that someone halfway across the world had experienced the intensity of despair and paralysis that I was feeling. It helped to know I wasn’t alone.
Knowing that other people found a way to live with mental health issues, and in fact to thrive, made me believe that the same was possible for me. So I decided to take a leap of faith and share this. I’m hoping it might help someone the way other people writing honestly about their struggles has helped me.
If you are struggling with your mental health, here are some resources that might help:
Everyone can relate to the feeling of yearning for something or someone, but few of us enjoy it. Yearning is living in a possible future. It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t make us as happy as living in the moment does…
Pressuring ourselves to be happy all the time is not only futile, it is exhausting. Sometimes we just need to let ourselves feel whatever we are feeling in the moment, even especially if it’s not insta-perfect. It is good to know how to care for ourselves during these times, so here are some suggestions for riding the waves…
Sometimes we feel helpless when we see our loved ones feeling down. So we go into proactive mode – we try to cheer them up, suggest solutions to their problems, hurry them to feel happier, because we care and don’t like seeing them upset. Unfortunately this can have the opposite effect and make them feel worse, because it feels like you are glossing over their feelings, or implying that their feelings are not valid. If you are not sure what to say or do, maybe try asking “What can I do to help?”. The answer might be a simple “Just sit and listen”.
This poem is inspired by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery by joining the pieces together with gold. Instead of trying to hide the cracks, Kintsugi highlights them, making the repaired piece more beautiful than the original.
We don’t have to feel happy all the time. ‘Negative’ emotions are not the problem, the problem is running from them because we feel like we’re not supposed to have them. But it’s hard to sit with ‘negative’ emotions – it’s much easier when we know we can lean on a friend. If you know someone who is struggling, send them this card and let them know you’re there for them.
People need people. Around the world, lockdowns have resulted in isolation and distress at being separated from our loved ones, our support system. Even if you can’t meet them yet, let them know you are thinking of them with this card!