Being Okay With Not Being Okay
"You used to be a lot more bubbly.."
"You okay? you don't seem like yourself.."
Those words used to run the guilt truck over my body. Am I not enough? I'm a disappointment and underperforming. I'm not living up to who I should be. Who do they want me to be? I must show them that everything is okay, I'm fine!!! All is well! Insert smile on face.
I wasn't okay with not being okay.
I learned quickly how to entertain. How to mask what was really going on, in fact, I think I became a professional at it; to the point that I was even convinced that I was doing "great!"
I was the "most comfortable" at a level 10, smiling and saying the right things. My deepest fear was to let someone down or be unloved. I was figuring out how to mold myself into the image that people wanted of me; becoming a chameleon, really. The "happy, bubbly, life is so good!" girl. The "loved, make everyone feel comfortable" person. Thats what they wanted from me, right?
I played this role strong and most of the time, it was pretty easy. I believed in smiling, but the ability to "put on a show" and "say the right thing" (read: chronic PEOPLE PLEASER!!!) came to a dramatic halt.
Postpartum depression ripped up my world, it completely broke me. In more than one way, it started the unraveling the "who I was supposed to be" and I was faced with my present: my completely depressed, Eeyore self who didn't want to get out of bed. What I was going through was really hard to hide, but I sure as hell tried. I didn't want the world to know. I would come out what I felt better. I was so ashamed, I wanted people to see that I loved my baby and life was SO good. Did I love my baby? Of course, with every single inch of me; but something was wrong and I hid it for an entire year. Undiagnosed and confused, I wanted to pretend it away. Why did I think those thoughts? How do I live life when I'm "not okay?"
I was embaressed to not be happy. I wanted to be a certain way and my reality was different, so I decided to shut the door. People would come knocking and I tried to keep it light and say a little something to see if it was safe.
Most the time, I could tell they just wanted me to be okay, so I pretended I was.
I hid in my house because I didn't know how to leave it's comfort when I was sick. I feared exposure. When my heart was hurting, I chose to conceal it because I didn't want to be a downer and quite frankly, I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to bring the best Jeniece every time. The Jeniece that I thought I was, but not my reality at all.
After 6 months of battling, I stopped breastfeeding it was then that I started to feel like myself again, but not the old self; those months were now a part of me. It wasn't until my second baby that I started to face the truth. Postpartum depression was something I was going to have to battle once again.
I felt myself starting to hide once more. I reached for comfort in the wrong things and began closing the door of my heart and my house. Trying desperately to hide, God seemed to start unraveling me. He exposed me to myself and rained down his love on me. I stood in the shower and let Him have it. I told him everything, my fears, my most shameful thoughts. I began surrendering ("giving over"). He told me I was not alone (a moment I will cherish forever). It was one of the most enlightening times of my life. This time I knew I had to let it happen. I had to give into the process of being undone and sitting in it. I had to be honest with myself. I went to my doctor and asked for help. I told Andrew I wasn't okay. I started speaking the truth about how I felt. I suddenly felt less tired.
I told a few friends and most importantly, hear this, please: I let myself be not okay.
I didn't perform for anyone anymore, I simply could not keep it up.
I became the real version of myself because I wasn't hiding my weakeness, I was bringing my whole self with me wherever I went. It wasn't until I embraced all the sides of me that I became a whole person. I was telling the truth about my life for the first time. I felt shackles escape my ankles. This is what it's like to dance.
I never knew what being yourself and being real looked like until I chose to open my door and let my mess and junk spill out so people could help me, see me, and love me for who I am. Interestingly enough, if you offer a fake version of yourself to people, your "fake version" is loved and the real you cannot be loved.
Surprisingly to me, people took me in with loving arms. They showed me that I was just fine and I didn't have to be anyone else besides myself. Let me clarify: the right people took me in. There are wrong people and right people. The ones on your field fighting with you are your people. The spectators in the stands judging you are NOT YOUR PEOPLE. (Thanks again to Brene for this life changing picture). Right where I'm at is the right place. I don't need all of the answers right now. I don't have to put on a mask and be bubbly and cheerful if I am having a bad day. I don't have to fake it. I can be in process.
Isn't that freeing?
"THIS IS OKAY, YOU ARE LOVED RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!"
We have permission to be ourselves. Whatever you are going through, bring it to the table. Sit in it. Don't put on a mask and pretend it's okay and shut your door. It doesn't work, I've tried and it's effing exhausting. (If you were sitting across from me I would have said the real F-word). You don't have to tell everyone, in fact, don't. Tell someone who you know you can trust. Someone who will love you and remind you of who you are. For me, that person was God.
Let the unraveling begin, become undone. Untwist, untie the parts of you that are knotted tight in fear or shame. Those parts of you can't be set free until you give them permission to loosen up and be seen. Keep moving, keep unraveling and journeying in your real skin. Tell your story with your whole heart. (the famous Brene Brown line that I use as my mantra). Trust me, you will get some doors slammed in your face and that's okay. A lot of times people don't know how to deal with brokenness. The crazy thing is, is we are all broken. Every single one of us.
Whether you are dealing with PPD, anxiety, fear, shame, whatever it is. You are not alone. You are loved and you have permission to tell the truth about your life. That's when the beautiful unraveling begins and little whispers of freedom invade your most intimate parts.
Some lyrics from "Captain" by Hillsong United that I sing daily.
Through waters uncharted my soul will embark
I'll follow Your voice straight into the dark
And if from the course You intend
Speak to the sails of my wandering heart
Like the wind
Clear the skies before me
And I'll glide this open sea
Like the stars
Will align my voyage
And remind me where I've been
And where I am going
Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog
Your truth is the compass that points me back north
My soul's trusted Lord
All my allegiance is rightfully Yours
Thanks for letting me share, it's an absolute honor that you would take a moment to read. I am hear to listen and love, so tell me your story. Reach me at Jenieceharris@gmail.com I would love to encourage you or just be a listening ear. Your story matters.