“I Am Not OK” May Be the Four Most Powerful Words You’ll Ever Say

Sidle up to your best friend at church. Tell your husband when you have a minute alone. Admit it to your mom, to your small group, to your grown child.

Or, if all else fails, look in the mirror and say it to yourself.

I am not OK.

Tell the people you love why you feel broken. Admit that you’re scared, that your coping mechanisms have sharp edges. Break open your heart in plain view and trust someone to cradle it in their hands.

Maybe it’s the baby you lost, or the depression that came after you had a healthy birth. Maybe it’s marriage or finances or mental health. Maybe it’s something in your past, maybe it’s something coming in the future, maybe you don’t yet know why you’re falling apart.

Admit the truth: I am not OK.

You think that healing will come when you get your crap together. You assume other people are whole and strong. You assume there’s something about you that makes you this way. You assume that a normal person would be whole.


We are all, every one of us, not-OK somehow.

Every. Last. One. Of. Us.

It’s not by papering over our sense of inadequacy that we heal. It’s by hunkering down in the middle of the mess and throwing up our hands that our hearts get nourished.

Where is your grief today? What emotion are you scared of facing? What is the truth you aren’t ready to say out loud? What do you think you’ve messed up, irrevocably?

Maybe, on paper, your issues look worse than other people’s. Maybe you have Honest-to-God labels that shame you, like bipolar or depressed or anxious, divorced, gay, female, doubter, control-freak, cynic.

Maybe you assume YOU are the problem.

You aren’t.

We think normal is a party everyone else was invited to. But even if you showed up there at some point, it’s not a celebration worth sticking around past midnight for. When you finally leave the noise and hubbub, the men in sharp ties and the women in stiletto heels, you start gulping air.

You realize you hadn’t been breathing for a long time, because no one else mentioned pain, or grief, or bewilderment. You realized that others’ eyes were hard when they talked about how well they were doing. You realize they could not feel their own pain, much less comprehend yours.

Outside, in the inky black, your heart slows down.

In the darkness, you can hear the sound of crickets instead of the clatter of bored voices.

You realize you don’t want to be normal anymore. You don’t want to fit in the boxes people line up for you. You want to stop pretending that people and church and your past don’t hurt you. You want to tell your story without apologizing. You want to tell it and make it beautiful.

When you do, you find that normal or not, you are not alone.

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When you leave the party where everyone is normal, you can decide who you want to be. You can decide, some days, that you are not OK, and you can rejoice on others that you are. You can start seeing that the not-OK days are mixed with the hugs of children and light filtered through trees, and the bright fire of sunset.

You see that being not-normal, not-OK, brings the sharp brilliance of noticing and feeling and bearing witness into your life. It also means being tender, and vulnerable, and compassionate, and honest.

Outside, you find people in the glittering dark. … They’re not normal either, and they are relieved to catch your eye.

You greet one another with a holy kiss. You tell each other stories. You stay silent and unafraid. Sometimes, you sing.

And you realize, with a start, how much light there is outside in the dark: the bright brilliant stars, the calm changeable moon and the light of God inside of you, making you shine.

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Heather Caliri
Heather Caliri is a writer, wife, and mom from San Diego. She started saying yes to joy in her faith two years ago and was surprised to find that joy led straight to Jesus. Get her free e-book"Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-perfectionist Faith in Five Easy Verbs," on her blog, A Little Yes.