I know sometimes you feel like you’re falling apart. I know life can feel pointless. When you’re this far underwater you can’t really feel the light from the surface – you just feel cold and alone.
There’s times you don’t want to be here. Times when all you can see is the pain. What’s the point if everything just hurts? How can I fix anything if I can’t even handle the thought of getting out of bed? How can I reach out to someone and ask for help when I can’t stand feeling broken, and the last thing I want to do is ruin someone else’s day with my problems?
The hardest part for me is that when I’m that far underwater I forget that there’s more in life than the moment I’m feeling right now. I forget life is mostly balanced. There are times I cry in the shower, but also days I have wonderful hikes in beautiful nature. There are times I hated myself for eating a whole pizza, but also days I was really productive and healthy and proud of myself. Days where I felt completely alone and isolated and also days I made amazing memories with friends or family.
I’m not saying they are perfectly balanced right now. People have bad weeks or months or years and you’re not broken or damaged just because it’s been a while since you enjoyed life.
I need you to understand that feeling pain right now doesn’t mean you’ll never feel something else. I need you to understand that pain and feeling alone and disappointments and heartbreak are a part of being human. You’re not broken. You’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you.
No human life in all of history was a straight line of increasing happiness. Every single one was jagged and jerky. They were all unpredictable oscillations between terrible anxiety, exciting whirlwind romance, existential dread, relaxing contentment, neutral boring mundane day, grieving loss, pride of accomplishment, confusion or aimless drifting, and so many more. Life does not follow the 3 act play structure.
When you’re hurting it’s so hard to remember the high points or imagine you’ll have more. It feels like this pain is all we’ll ever have, it feels hopeless and awful. I know exactly what that feels like and you’re not alone. You’re human and all humans like us have these down moments, but I’m begging you to see that we have up moments too.
Can you see how your life is a roller coaster, and it’s not a bad thing? Can you point to some high points that you’ve had, and see the low points between? I can’t give you a recipe to avoid low points, such a recipe doesn’t exist. But I can be crystal clear that life is not just low points. Life isn’t just tragedies and I am terrified that you’re at the lowest point of your roller coaster right now. You’re looking behind you at how far down you fell and you’re in pain and all you can see is what you’ve lost. All you can feel is how different this is than the life you wanted or expected. All you know is that everything hurts and you don’t know what to do.
I’m terrified that you’re looking back so much that you can’t look forward. You can’t see that the highest point of your roller coaster is right in front of you and things are going to get so much better. I’m sick to my stomach that you’re going to give up on this ride and miss the high points ahead of you just because you thought today’s pain would last forever.
We can’t guess how many low points your life will have. We can’t predict when the high points will happen. But we do know that life has both highs and lows. We do know that the pain you feel today won’t last forever. There is more to your story than the heartache you feel right now. Your tears will dry with time and you will smile again. There might be pieces missing from your life right now, but there’s also time to find them. You’ve had days so happy they made you forget painful days leading up to them. There will be high points that make us look back at today, and we’ll be amazed at all the happiness we still had that we couldn’t have predicted.
Don’t you dare give up on tomorrow. Don’t you dare put up with all these low points just to get off the ride at the bottom. Don’t cheat yourself out of all the high points you have left. You didn’t foresee the happiest points in your life so far, and there’s no reason you could predict the high points you have remaining.
When you have hard days I need you to see them as what they are: a speedbump. They’re not a cliff, not an explosion, and not the end of the world. They hurt and your feelings are justified, but the pain today is one minor chord in a complex melody. There’s major chords too and we’ll hear a lot of both before the end of the song. The minor might be really loud right now and it might be all we can hear, but hold on.
I need you to look today in the eyes and say:
You’re kind of a dick but you’re not the only day in my life. There’s other days that I’ll enjoy more after you. Just because pain is all I feel now doesn’t mean that’s all I’m ever going to feel.
You don’t have to feel okay to keep going. You don’t have to see the summit to keep climbing. Even if all you feel is pain and all you see is darkness you can keep swimming. We know land is out there and we know it’s not here, so we’re not going to give up in our darkest moment. I’m going to keep swimming, are you?
Further reading: If this resonated with you then I highly recommend The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu. This is the most approachable book I’ve found that admits how hard life is while still offering simple concrete things we can do to feel better. If you can get the audiobook it’s incredible because the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu are really good friends and hearing them tease and joke with each other and share wisdom is as beautiful as it is helpful. It helped me find way more joy in good times as well as hard times.