What It Means to be “Not OK”

Much of my life, I’ve described myself as being “not OK”. What do I mean by “not OK”? If you’ve ever felt this way, I think you know exactly what I mean. If you don’t… well, it’s hard to put into words, but I’ll do my best here. It’s so much more than any one of the following by itself: sad, mad, upset, glum, agitate, distressed, lonely, annoyed, just to name a few. Throw a brain that won’t allow you to distinguish right from wrong, true from false, or even really know who you are. Top it off with a drive to find “it” and the willingness to do whatever it takes to be “OK”. That’s “not OK”.

Where I’m coming from

Each of those feelings alone aren’t great, but put some or all together and it can have a devastating affect on a young woman. A woman like me who will do anything to get rid of pain. The “not OK” took me to dark places. As many of you know, alcohol played a huge part in my life and caused me to reach that point of no return, and I’m thankful for that. I wish I could say it was the only thing I reached for, but that’s not true. Gossip, flirting, shopping, overworking, sleeping, eating, and giving or taking until there was nothing left. That was how I lived and it caused the pendulum to swing so far in either direction that for many years, the “not OK” was a pretty common state for me.

As a teen and in college, I remember describing myself this way to friends who would look at my sideways. “I just… I feel…. I’m just not OK, ok?!” It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s when I shared this someone who nodded along like she understood. “Wait, that made sense to you?” “Sure, I’ve felt that way most of my life.” My mind was blown! I also finally felt understood. Ok, so I’m not alone on this strange peninsula of way too many feelings that make no sense, topped with a low threshold for pain. But now what?

Identify, Acknowledge, Process

What became clear is that I was relying on too many external variables for my “OK-ness”. People, food, events, material goods, grades, experiences. If even one situation didn’t align with my expectations, the feeling of “not OK” would creep in. Now that I’m a few years removed from this valley, I can also point out that the feelings came along with what I refer to as “emotional hangovers”. Part of working through this for me was acknowledging when I was feeling “not OK”. Identify, acknowledge, and process.

When I realized I was putting so much pressure on things and people to make me “OK” (to help me feel: human, happy, a part of, accepted), I started to see what a recipe for disaster it truly was. But, how do I change something that I had been doing my whole life? For me, part of this was working the steps of a recovery program. I needed to acknowledge that, of and by myself, I am nothing. That people and things will always fail me at some point. That ultimately, I have a God-sized whole in my heart that no amount of “things” will be able to satisfy.

Once I could acknowledge that and process through why the “not OK” feeling was so big, it started to lose its power over me. It didn’t change right away, however, I found that as it happened, pausing — taking no action — played a big part. I’m not a person who pauses, so this seemingly simple task was a massive game changer. Today, before I let myself get wrapped up in the lies in my head of how I’m feeling, I turn toward the One who loves me for me and knows my heart. He continually brings me peace and the feeling that I am “OK”, that I am enough.

I know I’m not alone

I realize now that those friends who looked at me strangely when I described being “not OK” might have felt something similar, just gave it a different title. This world tells us to put our dependence on things and people who will fail us. The only way around this is to look for something bigger. Whatever that is, we must turn to it. In my experience, it is the only way to combat the feelings I’ve described, to break through the “not OK”.

I still feel hard feelings. I feel sad and mad, scared, anxious, and overwhelmed. What has left me are the lonely, empty feelings and the obsession to find a solution RIGHT NOW. Because I know those feelings are a part of life, now matter how few expectations I have. This life is hard, but I don’t have to do it alone. I’m grateful to have accepted (and continue to accept) help from God and the people He’s placed around me.

Today, I get to connect with other women who tell me they are just “not OK”, and I can nod and smile and say, “I get that. I’ve felt that way.” And isn’t that all we really want to hear when we are in that place? That we aren’t alone, and that there is a solution.

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