It’s okay to feel alone, but know that you’re not

Photo by Tyler Meuter

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to be sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, or even depressed. Our culture places a disproportionate amount of value on happiness. Many people put on a happy face for the world, for their parents, and often times even for their friends. However, negative feelings are valid and nothing to be ashamed of.To some extent, everyone experiences highs and lows, whether the times of not being okay last hours, days, weeks, or more. Experiencing the full spectrum of emotions is human, and giving oneself permission to experience and acknowledge negative feelings is crucial. Suppressing these specific feelings can lead to serious emotional stress and worsening of mental health.

While one can release negative feelings alone through activities like journaling or exercising, having another person to share your thoughts and struggles with provides a different type of release.

As humans, we crave meaningful connection despite this digital, instant gratification world. While we are worrying about whether our lives look picture-perfect on Instagram, people around us are suffering, carrying their emotional burdens alone.

This modern disconnection makes the stigma against depression even more harmful. Many people living with mental illnesses never share what they are going through for a variety of reasons.

Because mental illnesses are often seen as not being a legitimate medical issue, people may fear a dismissive response, such as “just choose to be happy”, from a confidant. Others may worry about an even more negative response, such as being labeled “crazy”, “weird”, or “dangerous” and being ostracized.

Additionally, the pressure to appear put together can cause people to hide their issues. To be respected and taken seriously, many people attempt to look strong by suppressing their emotions. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it takes courage to accept that you cannot handle everything on your own.

As students at a top university, we feel a unique type of pressure to live up to high expectations, whether they are those of family, professors, peers, or ourselves. Along the way, we are expected to sacrifice physical and emotional health to take advantage of all the opportunities we have been offered and utilize the smarts that got us here in the first place. We experience many similar failures and challenges, and being honest about these situations builds a cooperative, supportive community, instead of one that is competitive one.

While I think that we do a decent job at solidarity over school, commiserating over failing a test should extend to openness about deeper issues, whether that is having a rough week or something more serious.

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people suffer from mental illness during some point in their lives. By sharing when you are experiencing depression or being an empathetic listener, the oppressive burden of loneliness can be lifted.

For these conversations to occur more easily, the taboo on talking about sadness and stigma against mental illnesses, especially depressions, needs to be broken down. In the meantime, whether you have had just a day of not being okay or too many to count, that is okay. One day you will be okay again, and talking about it is okay, too.