Do you know the difference between OK and Not OK? I teeter on the edge more often than I’m proud to admit. As an Achiever on the Strengthsfinder, I often cycle through a continual pattern of intense motivation and creativity, superhuman energy and productivity, followed by a crash of burnout and emotional despair. I’ve learned to identify the burnout signs earlier in the cycle, and put in some emergency brakes to soften the inevitable crashes, but they still come. And sometimes they last for a while. I need people in my life who know when I’m crashing, and can help me pull the pieces back together.
I knew I wasn’t OK last April. Seven weeks of COVID-19 isolation and lockdown in my small New York City apartment, and being someone who considers themselves an empath who thrives on human connection…I was suffocating. It literally felt like I was choking from the stress. One morning, while I was doing yoga in an attempt to regulate my nervous system, the tears came in waterfalls, and they did..not.. stop. I called my mother in Kentucky: “I’m not OK,” I sobbed. She said, “Come home. You’ve done this long enough.” And so I did. And it was the best thing I could have done to drag myself from the valley, and climb slowly back up to the mountaintop.
This year has been an unprecedented challenge for our collective mental health. Just looking at the news, we’re seeing headlines like “Loneliness epidemic,” and “Substance Abuse during COVID: A pandemic within a pandemic.” The CDC asked young adults if they had experienced suicidal thoughts during the Coronavirus. 1 in 4 admitted yes.
For me: How Do I Know When I’m Not OK?
● I’m secretly angry and irritable about everything I’m required to do
● Getting up in the morning is difficult
● I lack motivation to exercise and I lose my appetite
● I stop expressing myself creatively
For you: How Will You Know When I’m Not OK?
● You won’t see me or hear from me; I disappear
● I stop singing or writing
● My house is a mess
At some point in your life, you or someone you know will have a crisis of mental health. Pay attention to yourself.
Ask your friends, “How do I know when YOU’RE not OK?”
I asked my friends and here’s what they told me:
“I stop eating healthy things.”
“I can’t sleep, I look and feel tired.”
“I’ll show up late or cancel last minute.”
And another put it so poetically, “One of my core strengths (StrengthsFinder) is Positivity…It’s like I see the color yellow hue or cast on life and all things in it.
How I know when I am not OK is …. yellow turns to gray….During difficult days, my response is to withdraw from the world….to remove myself from people, who normally energize and bring me light…yellow light.
When I notice the gray…and I catch myself spinning in isolation…I remember ‘This is not me!’ and I send a text to a friend in my ‘inner circle’…a close friend who I know loves me unconditionally.”
So, How do you know when you’re not OK? Tell your friends so they can look out for you. When we need support, we often hesitate to ask for it. And encourage your friends to share their responses with you. You just might save a life.
If you or someone you love needs to connect with Mental Health resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. My circle of friends has plenty of room for you if you need a lifeline buddy. And you can be one of mine.
With sunny thoughts for cloudy days,