‘I am the woman who is constantly OK, even when I’m not OK. Yesterday, I stopped pretending.’: Woman struggling with mental health during pandemic says ‘I pretend because I feel guilty’

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“Yesterday I had to quit pretending things were OK.

I was mid-step heading downstairs (or up, I can’t remember) and I just had to sit down, breathe, and cry.

I am not OK. This whole situation is not OK. And yesterday I had to be done pretending I’m OK all day, every day. I had to be done pretending I’m constantly handling all this ‘so well.’

I pretend because not pretending makes other people uncomfortable.

I pretend because I feel guilty about letting the stress of this all get to me.

I pretend because there is some completely BS belief I SHOULD be OK, or at least should be quiet about not being OK.

Yes, there are days I feel like a rock star. Teacher. Mom. Laundry do-er. Dinner-maker. Arts and crafts coordinator. Physical education coordinator. Navy wife. Balance Master.

There are days where I feel like, working full-time from home as a special education teacher, championing students who are doing well and supporting those who are struggling, while also parenting and teaching my own child, that I have all all the plates in the air and am successfully, albeit, precariously juggling them all in a minute-by-minute acrobatic dance.

Some days none of the plates fall.

Some days, like yesterday, they all come crashing down around me.

And it doesn’t take much:

One random comment from someone about how much they are enjoying all this extra free time.

One additional ‘it’ll be so amazing’ duty ascribed to me.

One extra upload of a kid’s school work when the computer times out and you have to start all over.

One morning toast for breakfast burned a little too dark, and there’s a small child melting down because of it.

Or, one more ‘I just need to run downstairs for one more thing…’

Typically, I am the woman who takes it all on. Typically, I am the woman who is constantly OK, even when I’m not OK. Typically, I am the woman colleagues, peers, and friends go to for support and suggestions and ideas. Typically, I am the woman who has it all together. Typically, I am the woman who is unphased in the most stressful situations — including months-long deployments, cross-country moves, and new jobs. Typically, I love and appreciate this about myself. Typically, I am proud of my ability to handle it all, enjoy handling it all, and keep a chipper, positive attitude (and mean it!) while handling it all.

But let’s be real, shall we?

This time, what we are all collectively experiencing is anything but typical.

And I’ve been holding it all together each and every minute — no, every second — of each and every day since my community went into social distancing/lock-down. Since schools were closed and I began crisis-teaching from home, and my child started crisis-learning from home, and we were told we could not leave our homes or see our friends or family, or live life as we knew it.

And yesterday I just could not pretend anymore.

Yesterday I was not OK.

Someday, I know, I will get back to feeling like that typical me. The one who gladly takes it all on and more — with a chipper smile and a ‘sure’ that I mean. Perhaps though, there will be a piece of me that remembers how this has felt, and I will remind myself to slow down, say no to a few more things, and spend time on the important stuff…

Right now though, I don’t have the luxury of thinking of all the ‘what ifs.’ The ‘maybes.’ The ‘what will it be like whens.’

Right now I’m honestly just trying to make it through each day a little less broken, a little less frazzled, a little less stressed.

Today, I woke up and felt a little of the weight lifted. Just enough because I had finally admitted to myself that nope, I’m not going to be OK every day. Not for a little while longer anyway.

Tomorrow is yet another day — to do my best, acknowledge the struggle, and let go of the guilt and pressure of having to do ‘all the things’ perfectly.

Tomorrow, I may be OK.

But if tomorrow I’m not OK, and that means more crying on the stairs before I get back up and at it again, then so be it.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Colleen Green. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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