Why are we all so bad at admitting that we are not ok?

Trust your own madness neon sign

If anyone has the perfect life please speak now. Please. We will flock to you like butterflies to rotting fruit and commit acts of worship until we learn your ways.

Sadly no one has the perfect life; the Queen has Phillip to deal with, One Direction are probably rife with STDs and Jesus had his daddy issues. Everyone is fighting their own battle regardless of if they are visible or not. The question is, if everyone experiences negative emotions why the hell are we so bad at admitting it?

Life will have its ups and downs – fact. If you are happy all the time you are either a psychopath, on some phenomenal drugs or are actually a puppy. None of these are particularly great things (except being a puppy, puppies are true life goals). Regardless of how you are feeling right at this moment, in the future you will be happy, sad, angry, hungry (totally an emotion), resentful, excited and every other fractal of emotion.

We are striving for a perfect horizon, a point in life where everything is roses and happiness all the time. But even if you reached that horison you would still feel the negatives, you would probably feel bored, sad and restless. Look what happened to the citizens of the Capitol when they had everything they wanted? No one wants to see the London version of the Hunger Games; tributes choosing between a mating fox or a can of Strongbow as weapons doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Nothing material, medical, or relationship-al can stop you from experiencing negative emotions in your future.

Given that we all 100% experience down times why exactly don’t we talk about it? Why don’t we have the language or the phrases to tell friends that life at the moment feels like the fuck-trumpet of doom and you just want a kitten delivery service to be a real thing? Instead what we do is cancel plans with flimsy excuses, we drop out at the last minute, sub-tweet, laugh too loud at parties and pretend that it is all ok. We build up a front to stop the world seeing what is actually going on, and in the process make what we are feeling ten times worse.

Millennial burnout is something that has been written about quite a bit recently. Short story is that we are giving so much passion to our jobs, and never switching off so by about 30 we burnout. It’s a symptom of our inability to talk about the negative that we hear from the burned but not the ones in the flames. We can look back and reflect, but actuating in the moment? Not a chance. I am the worst for this (and I talk from genuine experience). It’s not that I don’t trust my friends or think they would be anything other than supportive – it’s that I didn’t know things were that bad until suddenly they were.

Follow that dream neon sign

We all ‘hate Mondays’ we are all ‘super stressed out’ we all ‘have a lot on’, this is our 20-something baseline of emotion. If that is the average then how do you know when these feelings reach dangerous levels? When every single person at the table says how stressed they are, you instantly assume that everyone is feeling the way you do – you just aren’t able to cope. So we keep on keeping on, blaming ourselves for being deficient in some way instead of realising that the work/relationship/travel situation that we have ended up in is not right. We can’t even recognise in ourselves that something is majorly wrong, how the hell can we explain it to friends?

That is my experience at least. I had a job that I’m pretty sure would have killed me in the end, but I kept marching on because I thought that the stress just meant I cared, the tiredness just meant I was working hard and the fact that I had turned into a sharp and entirely unlikeable person was just who I was. I was doing everything I was supposed to, the fact that I felt terrible all the time was surely just something inherently wrong with me, not something that could be fixed.

So what did I do? Well I was absolutely fine, until all of a sudden I wasn’t. I wasn’t to such an extent that all I wanted to do was run away, I considered leaving London and going home. I fantasied about menial jobs where I didn’t have to be in charge, good lord at one point I thought “man if I had a baby I wouldn’t have to stay in this job”. Bad, bad, bad.

So I quit. I quit a company that I loved more than anything because my mental health was more important than a job was ever going to be. I took a month off to put myself back together. A month were I basically just cafe hopped and drank a lot of coffee. It was magical. Three weeks in I found myself smiling as I walked down the road, an event so unusual and shocking that I still remember it. What a state did I get myself into that spontaneous smiling was unusual?

I am me again. I am me with a new job that I love. But I am a little wiser now, I am not going to let myself burnout again. I now go to a cafe and write this little blog every morning because it makes me happy. I now repeat “Not my monkeys. Not my circus” to myself endlessly (not EVERYTHING is my problem). I let go. I have a life outside work that is of equal importance to my job. And I am doing my best to look, really look, at how I am feeling so that if I get to that point again I will know to raise the red flag to my friends.

8 Comments

  1. April 8, 2016 / 2:35 pm

    Thanks for this, it was exactly what I needed to read at this particular moment.

    I just had a bit of a vent to my colleague and realised that what I need is a weekend. Well, what I need is more than that but I’ll take it one day at a time, and the weekend will certainly help.

  2. April 8, 2016 / 5:24 pm

    It can be so tough sometimes with work, as sometimes I find you don’t know whether the stress will be a temporary thing or not! I’m glad you did the right thing for you though – totally the right choice!

  3. April 9, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    Loved the post and couldn’t agree more.
    I realised I was in the wrong job when I was considering walking out in front of a car just so I wouldn’t have to go in. Mad really that I let myself down to that level cause of a job. I know better now.
    I still agree though in that we have a pressure to be happy all the time and not allowed to mope because there’s always people worse off than you. But sometimes you just want to be sad, and that’s only human to feel that x

  4. April 9, 2016 / 5:49 pm

    Feeling a little shit now because the fuck-trumpet of doom is the only instrument I know how to play.

    Such is life.

  5. April 11, 2016 / 3:05 pm

    And there was me thinking this was just a British thing. Both glad and sad in equal measure to discover that this is not the case. For me, feeling sad/down tends to make me withdraw into myself, something which only reinforces this tendency.

    The last time this happened in a big way, I started the Coffee Spot. Hopefully next time I’ll have the sense to reach out before such drastic measures are needed!!

    Thanks,
    Brian.

  6. April 11, 2016 / 7:23 pm

    Totally agree. It was one of the reasons I left my old job, too: I’d started to believe it was normal to never see daylight and I’d forgotten what it felt like to be human.

  7. April 13, 2016 / 2:18 am

    Beautifully written. So spot on.

  8. May 9, 2016 / 7:49 am

    Late to this particular party. Speaking from the perspective of the generation before yours, I suspect the tendency to feel underwater is not a new one, but what is new is the willingness/ability to confront that feeling and do something about it rather than just continue to be stuck in a life not of one’s choosing/to one’s taste. One huge factor is the new modes of communication provided by the internet, but it no doubt still takes a great deal of bravery to write a post like this one (and most of the posts you write).