Not Ok is Ok

2 min
at 10:43 PM

Cancer treatment is a roller coaster. But whether you’re on a thrilling high or a terrifying low, Ana Reyes says it's OK to not be OK.

I did my best to stay positive, but too often I just felt pissed and exhausted. I felt sorry for myself. And then I would read blogs that said having cancer led to a greater appreciation for life. I wanted to feel changed, inspired to advocate and rejoice in little things, Sometimes I did.

But quite often I didn’t. I felt angry at myself for not being as positive as these other patients. I felt I should be more grateful, more positive, more your own-happy-word. And then, I got into this crazy cycle of feeling badly, and then feeling badly that I felt badly.

I know that many people had it worse. My cancer is treatable. But grief, sadness and anger aren't reserved for only some. If we took everyone who suffered a tragedy, lined them up by some rank of “who has it worst,” would only the last person in line be allowed to feel sorry for themselves? Just because someone has it worse, doesn’t make your struggles any less valid. You empathize with others but your situation may be pretty crappy, too.

I live now by “it’s OK to not be OK.” Whatever I’m feeling, good or bad, it’s OK. I allow myself to cry, to yell, to be pissed or depressed.

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People write inspirational blogs to give others strength and advocate for change. But sometimes it is nice to hear that people are struggling with your own difficult emotions. I read blogs like Facebook posts now -- glimpses into the best of people’s lives. Most people don’t post pictures of themselves crying in the fetal position on the floor. They wait until those moments have passed and write about getting up and moving on. But we all have those moments of sheer frustration and anger and debilitating sadness, and that is OK too.

I’ve learned that in those moments I am not alone. There are, unfortunately, many others feeling the same way. And maybe in some way that brings comfort. It’s OK to not be OK.

With a Perspective, I’m Ana Reyes.

Ana Reyes is an assistant principal at Greene middle school in Palo Alto. A mother of two, she’s a cervical cancer survivor.