Your alarm goes off, waking you from a night of tossing and turning. You put on your bulkiest sweater and tie your hair back in a gentle ponytail. You cover the zits scattered across your face and attempt to hide the dark bags under your eyes with foundation. You apply eyeliner and a little lip gloss, hoping to hide your exhaustion. You look in the mirror and feel so dissatisfied. You want to cry, but you know you don’t have time to redo your makeup. So you think to yourself, this is as good as it’s going to get.
You drive to work, half asleep, and say good morning to your co-workers with a charming smile that deceives them into thinking you are OK. It even surprises you how well you mask the pain with smiles and friendly greetings.
You do your work, but your mind is elsewhere. Your thoughts are all over the place, you can’t think straight. You want to be back in your bed, curled up, hiding from the world. You want to hibernate with “Friends” reruns and chocolates.
You want to be by yourself, in your own lonely world, but you don’t really want to be alone … not really. You want someone to tell you it’s OK, that you’ll be OK, but nobody knows how hard life is for you. Nobody knows you are struggling. Nobody knows to ask.
You want to go to happy hour after work, but you’re too worn out from faking smiles and pretending to be OK all day. You don’t have it in you to make small talk when it feels like your world is caving in on you. You don’t know what to talk about anyways, and the stress of figuring that out convinces you to go straight home.
When you get home after work, you don’t know what to do with yourself. You feel like you should do something meaningful or productive, but you just feel anxious and overly tired. You feel sad that you feel sad, and you feel anxious about feeling anxious. So, you get lost in your thoughts. You wonder what’s wrong. You have a good life, right? You have friends. You have a good job. You have a place you call home. You have people who love you, and people who you love. You have all that you need. On paper, you should be OK. So, you wonder what’s wrong. You wonder why this isn’t enough.
When it’s finally time to get ready for bed, you take your clothes off and catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. You barely recognize the girl staring back at you. You barely know her anymore.
You’re sad. So sad. And you don’t know why.
I know you want to get in bed, even though you know you won’t fall asleep for hours. But instead of taking a quick shower just to get it over with, take a long hot shower. Let the water rinse the day’s stress off of your back. Let the steam relieve your tense shoulders, and let the warmth calm your anxious nerves. Gently wash your body with lavender body wash. Stay in the hot water as long as you need.
Now, put on your coziest pajamas. Put on your thick, warm socks. Brush the knots out of your hair.
And before you get into bed, turn out the lights so the room is completely dark. Look out your window at all of the stars sparkling delicately at you. Look at how little those stars are, and how they all shine brightly against the dark sky. Let them reassure you that you are doing OK. Let their presence comfort you, and let them show you something bigger than you is out there protecting you. Let them remind you life isn’t going to feel this way forever. Let the big open sky promise you one day things will feel better.
Remember today was just one day.
And one bad day doesn’t equal a bad life. A bad month doesn’t mean a bad life. So, take it day by day or even hour by hour and be gentle with yourself. Know you are doing the best you can and this is enough. You made it through the day.
Tomorrow is another day, so right now, close your eyes and allow yourself to be sad. If tears trickle out of the corners of your eye, let them. It’s OK to be sad. Soon things will be better. So, in the meantime, be proud of yourself.