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September 7, 2017

How to Tell our Loved Ones we’re Not Okay.


This is my dark night of the soul.

Life has suffering; there’s no way around it. It is an inescapable fact of being human.

All of us will face our shadow side, whether in the near future or somewhere down the line.

For me, this came to a head a couple weeks ago. The bad mental habits I developed to cope with my illness finally caught up with me. I came to realize how pathological I have become, how muddled my psyche has become, and how injured my heart really is. This insight cut through me like a hot knife in butter.

Only then did I know I needed help.

Realizing this, I decided to send a message to my closest friends. I knew that the only way to feel solidarity with the people I love was to express what was really happening inside me. I didn’t know how it would be received, but I trusted in their capacity to listen and love in return. I knew that, for better or worse, it was the right thing to do.

If you or a loved one are struggling and don’t know how to reach out, I hope these words offer some insight into what they might be going through or how you could ask for help:

And with that—this was my letter:

“Dear friends,

I’m writing this because you are the closest people in my life and I want to tell you what’s going on with me.

As you know, I’ve been dealing with my health issue for the better part of five years—the worst being the last year and a half.

You would think, after so much time, that I would accept and find peace with my condition—but that has not been the case for me. The struggle has only gotten worse, cutting more deeply into my soul. It has compiled over time, and that wretched feeling of injustice has never gone away. It’s just gotten worse, like a bottomless pit.

I have felt so disconnected from people for so long that I don’t even know what “normal” feels like anymore. I don’t know how to relate to others because I am in my own little version of hell all the time. I feel like an alien—like I am in the wrong place in the universe all the time. There’s no peace; there’s no solace. There is nothing to fall back on and nothing to give me comfort. I feel alone.

This experience has been illuminated by certain events recently, but the button was always there, just waiting to be pushed for years now.

I thought my life was supposed to go one way—and it went another. I know this expectation was an illusion, but I can’t knock the feeling that this isn’t how life was supposed to be. Everywhere I go, I know deep in my heart that I shouldn’t be like this; it’s like an inherent sense of wrongness. Like I really shouldn’t be here.

Part of my difficulty is that I don’t like to speak in this way. I would rather just store my true feelings and try to laugh and smile and forget about them when I’m around others, but they’re getting much harder to conceal. In truth, I just feel like crying all the time and I don’t know what else to do.

I don’t know what to say to people anymore. Everything feels wrong. Like I’m there, but I’m not really there. Like a ghost. I’m sure people sense this on some level, and it probably makes them wary of me.

It’s like this weight in my chest that’s always there, some kind of latent burden that I carry everywhere I go, and there is no escaping it. I wake up and it’s there. I talk to anybody and it’s there. I go to the park and it’s there. It’s like there’s something broken inside of me and there is just no getting away from it.

My soul feels like a wounded animal, all mangled and torn up, with no home to slink back to.

All I can do, and I’ll I’ve been doing, is running forward. Doing everything in my power to get healthy and right with myself. But right now, I feel like I’m holding up the weight of everything and I’m just not strong enough for it.

I’m not saying this to get anything in return. You’ve all been good to me, and I couldn’t ask much more of you. If there’s one thing I believe in, it is telling the truth, and the truth is I am hurting—I am hurting really badly.

It dawned on me last night for the first time that maybe things won’t be okay, that it is not unlikely that I will die young, and this thought terrifies me. I don’t know how I got here. My heart is broken.

I don’t know how you all will take this, I just feel like you should know I just feel like you guys should know what’s up because I can’t pretend like it’s all going to work out anymore. Because might not.

In the words of one Frank Ocean, “I’d rather chip my pride than lose my mind out here.”

Anyways, I’m safe and I love you all more than you know.

Talk soon,

Sam”

This is the most impactful thing I have ever written. I cried at many moments in the process. I didn’t know how to express what I was feeling without worrying anyone, but the reality is that worry on behalf of the people we love is unavoidable in times like these. Concern is often an expression of love.

I was really scared after I sent this. I thought it would seem like a selfish cry for help. I was worried that maybe I was crazy, and what I was saying was unintelligible.

But this was not the case.

My message was met with profound love and affection, and has led to me feeling even more deeply connected with the people in my life. The door has been opened to healing for the first time in a long time, and this could not have happened if I hadn’t admitted to myself what was happening within me and honestly expressed it to my closest friends.

In order to transform suffering into love, we must be honest with ourselves and the people we care for in this world. This is the first step.

Relephant:
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Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Ayo Ogunseinde/Unsplash
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Travis May

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