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For your kid’s sake, learn to be OK with saying ‘I’m not OK’

When I was thousands of feet in the air, I found myself having one of the scariest mental health problems ever.

My daughter and I were finally flying back home after six months of traveling around the country.

This time we were flying from California to New York City and although I had been really tired the days leading up to the flight, I ignored all the signs that I needed to be taking better care of myself. When we arrived at the airport, I was mentally and physically exhausted. My body was hot, my head hurt and I was extremely hungry, but I ignored all of it and kept my mind on getting home.

Thirty minutes after departure I woke up out of a nap feeling very dizzy and with extremely blurred vision. Since I am no stranger to blacking out, I rang for the flight attendant and calmly told her I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out. Then darkness.

I came to and the only thought on my mind was, “I hope I don’t disrupt my daughter” (who was quietly napping on my lap). “Do you need a doctor? Gloria? Gloria? Do you need a doctor?” I was asked repeatedly. I replied no and asked for some juice and an oxygen tank instead. While the flight attendants applied cold wet paper towels to my body, hooked me up to an oxygen tank and essentially fed me juice through a straw, I felt the familiar boiling point feeling I’m accustomed to: the familiar feelings that would lead to panic attacks that I have long chose to ignore. However, this time the feelings were coming stronger and with (also familiar) feelings of an anxiety attack.

I sat there crying, shaking, hyperventilating and in cold sweats with very limited vision having an emotional, mental and physical breakdown in front of a plane full of people while my child lay sleeping peacefully in my lap.

The whole time I kept apologizing and saying, “I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m OK,” when that was the farthest statement from the truth. I wasn’t OK. I was a mess. My entire existence had reached a point where it had to shut down for me to realize it existed.

Once I was nursed back to temporary health and the plane landed, I realized I was not OK and that it is OK to acknowledge and very important to know. My passive relationship with my mental health and not being honest with myself and others about things that affect me led to my 30,000-feet-in-air complete meltdown.

I thought about how many times I wanted to shout “No! It’s not OK. I’m not OK. I can’t and I don’t want to fix it,” but instead said, “I’m OK,” or “It’s OK,” or “Don’t worry, I can fix it.”

Saying “I’m not OK” doesn’t mean you are a terrible human — it makes you human. The truth is no one can be OK all the time and pretending that we are is one of the unhealthiest things we can do as people and as parents.

Since my complete meltdown on the plane, I have made it a priority to be honest about how I’m feeling with myself, with my clients and with my family and friends when they ask or when I’m just having a hard time. Being honest with myself about my depression and anxiety helps me manage my mental health better, it helps me identify what might be a hard day and I can plan accordingly and let my daughter know that “Mommy is having a hard day today.”

Being OK with not being OK helps me feel more human and forces me to face my mental health concerns straight on. It also helps me parent my daughter in more effective and intentional ways.

Sometimes I’m not OK and that’s OK.

Read more on mental health

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