[caption id="attachment_171242" align="aligncenter" width="1180"] Image by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas (2018), Pexels.com, CC0/PD[/caption]
When I think of an emotional breakdown I think of a particular scene from the 2003 feature film Something’s Gotta Give starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Character Erica Barry, played by Keaton, suffers from writers block until she experiences heartbreak when she and beau Harry (Jack Nicholson) go their separate ways. Because of this Erica has one emotional breakdown after another. Her writing doesn’t come alive until she starts to feel deep sadness. In fact, my favorite scene is when she finally finishes her screenplay only because she has allowed herself to experience deep emotional sobbing (which Keaton perfectly executes).
Most people try to mask our feelings of sadness because it's uncomfortable or hard to handle. In the movie, Erica’s daughter tries to point out that feeling pain and sadness is something that she’s tried to avoid all her life. It's in this moment where Keaton’s character calls her out and expresses that feelings even sad ones are a normal part of our human existence and to have felt suffering is to have lived and to have grown.
Whenever I feel sad or emotional, I often think of this movie scene because it is knowing that our vulnerability and emotional makeup is part of who we are. We are not always equipped to be happy or perfect or live a pain free life yet sometimes that’s exactly what we need to thrive.
This pandemic has definitely affected my emotional health and I can honestly say this girl here is not always OK. I’ve felt incredibly isolated, overwhelmed with the responsibility to be strong for my family to create some normalcy. I felt like I’m supposed to be this super-credentialed teacher, but I can’t get my own first-grade daughter to cooperate with her school work.
I’ve been faking it to make it, and in fact up to about a few hours before writing this article I struggled with how I was going to write a positive uplifting message because I didn’t want to be one of those writers who was adding to the sadness or the drama of this whole pandemic situation. But truth be told, I could not find the words to be positive. And as I tried and forced it out, the more saddened and more depressed I became.
Because the reality is: This IS A VERY HARD TIME. This separation from family, from friends, from work, and my kids’ school has all been very hard. For others, losing jobs, losing loved ones, the fear of contracting a disease we can’t see or determine the shelf life of is to some terrifying.
[caption id="attachment_171241" align="aligncenter" width="1180"] Image: Pexels.com (2010), CC0/PD[/caption]
So how have I dealt with all of this? I’d love to tell you that I’m totally handling it all, but that would be a lie. I’ve tried using logical phrases like “This will pass,” or "give it to God” but I feel empty inside. I’ve tried to keep myself occupied, but when logic thinking hasn’t worked I’ve used emotions and unfortunately I’ve stored them up so my emotion has turned into hysteria. I went to the cemetery today to see my mom, not only to see her to seek comfort but also because I felt it was the only safe place to cry. I yelled at my husband because he couldn’t relate at my emotional capacity and I unloaded on him. I stayed at Target longer than I was suppose to because I saw a friend and we walked the aisles together because I’ve needed that social interactions so desperately. And I’ve singled out people who annoy me because I couldn’t channel my frustration.
I haven’t dealt with this in the most rational, happy seeking, therapeutic way, and yet I know there’s value in that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is … IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK.
It’s OK to feel sad about this whole experience because it’s sad.
It’s OK to hate that I can’t hug my friends because of this social distancing thing.
It’s OK to be angry at God because while I am trying to lean on him I sometimes feel an emptiness yet I know he works through our suffering.
It’s OK to NOT feel brave for my students or my own kids because we are all going through this together.
It’s OK to mourn that my eighth-grade daughter’s graduation will be far from a traditional graduation this year and she will lose time with her friends because she’s going to a different high school. The sadness I feel for her and these last moments that she will never get back.
It’s OK to not like any of this …
So as I write this I’m having my Diane Keaton moment and pouring my heart out on paper because I know that this experience while uncomfortable and incredibly emotional, know that I am not the only one out there who feels this way. I know that things will eventually get better, but sometimes the despair sets in and no matter how many times I tell myself get back up I can’t avoid my feelings. I know that I need this sadness right now and that I need to allow myself to feel it.
[tweet "I know that I need this sadness right now and that I need to allow myself to feel it."]
Tomorrow I will get up, make breakfast and start first-grade homework all over again, but today I am feeling sad, frustrated, and emotional. And I’m not OK … and that’s OK.
Copyright 2020 Andrea Bear
About the Author
Andrea Bear is a wife, mom, and teacher in Northern California. She runs a blog called Life in the Grace Lane and also contributes to Catholic Stand and Today's Catholic Teacher magazine. When she's not writing or taking her kids to volleyball practice you can find her sipping coffee from the neighborhood coffee establishments or tasting wine from the local vineyards.