I’m ok – but being ok is exhausting

“Are you ok?”

Well, yes, I am. I guess.

In many ways, I’m better than ok. I have my health – not just for right now, but I’m also not in a high risk or vulnerable category that would make that uncertain or a source of fear. I have a beautiful home – if I was going to be ‘locked down’ anywhere, this is a pretty sweet locale for it! I have secure work – not just because I keep getting paid each month, but because the organisation I work with has incredibly supportive and sensitive leadership and colleagues. I am well-resourced and appreciated.

There are lots of other things that make me ok. The Victorian winter has been decidedly un-wintery … lots of days of beautiful sunshine and bright blue skies where too many grey skies and shut in days might have made the heart more cloudy and gloomy too. The internet! Let’s pause for a reverend moment of acknowledgement for the gift of the world wide web to us in these times! It brings the people into my home, allows me to be present where I’d otherwise miss out, and it delivers all these fabulous packages to my home (side note – who pays for the internet shopping bills? Just checking.).

So, I think I’m ok, thanks for asking.

But being ok is so exhausting.

Holding my okayness requires so much of me, it feels like another full time job. Above all the adult-ing and general life stuff there’s an extra portion of energy required to ‘be ok’.

Living on my own has always had its considerations when it comes to boundaries and routines. Bed times, home times, meal times, play times have no element of external imposition. And the challenges for me as an extrovert living alone have been well-documented. Our current circumstances have magnified and multiplied these things. Decision fatigue is real, and the self-motivation & self-discipline demands are next level. Add to that the pervasive uncertainty, the rapid change, the empathetic grief and loss, and also some personal disappointment and hurt.

And all the while, the usual avenues for emotional energy top-ups have been altered or completely closed off. I have gone multiple days without seeing a live human being! Instead of joining a congregation for worship and ministry I record a message to a camera in my lounge room and send a link. My Physio appointment last week was the only time I’ve had permitted physical contact with another person in … well, too long! I am missing opportunities to celebrate friends or gather with family.

So, I’m weary.

It is what it is. And it could be far worse. I’m so grateful for so many provisions and blessings in this season. I’m really ok. I am. But acknowledging the reality of the extra energy expenditure releases me to be ok with the moments it feels a bit too much. It permits me to be gentle with (and even more generous to) myself.

It also raises my consciousness of the unique struggles others are dealing with and prompts me to grace when that pressure leaks out for them in fear, complaining or even aggression.

Being ok takes more effort right now. Which might be why some people are not. And might explain some of the fatigue for those who are.

breaking the cycle

How often have you found yourself in a repeated thought loop or behaviour pattern and wondered why? Why do I keep acting this way? Why do I keep finding myself in the same place of regret or shame?

You may watch others who appear to be caught in the same cycle. 

The reality of how our hearts and brains are wired is that we can find ourselves on a predictable and repetitious path – when left unchecked. 

How the Cycle of Addiction works. 


We experience a disappointment, loss, trauma of any kind, failure or relational dysfunction. This will look different for every individual – our personal life experiences, personality, degree of emotional intelligence or intellect, family support and all manner of other factors shape how we will respond and how significantly we will be impacted. 

  • PAIN

We feel sad, we feel wounded, we feel lonely, we feel embarrassed. Again, the depth, breadth and severity of those feelings will vary  between people. There is not a collectively determined response to pain that would make that predictable or able to be assumed – for ourselves or others. What one person may find devastating might barely impact another. 


We are psychologically predisposed to try and stop or avoid pain. If you touch something hot you pull your hand away immediately. Pain is our mental and physical sign that something is wrong and it triggers an immediate desire to escape the source or remedy the wound. 


Our natural tendency is to go for the quick fix. We scoff a block of chocolate or turn to other substances for relief and escape. We look for anything that might momentarily relieve us of our pain or discomfort. 

  • GUILT 

At the height of pain and in our rush to escape it we can often make poor choices. An ill-advised relational connection, exessive alcohol consumption, violence, pornography, drugs or other decisions that lead to feelings of regret once we are more emotionally sober. 

This causes more pain and the cycle repeats. 

Each time we head back around the cycle we can find that we need increasing levels of stimuli to meet the need for escape and gratification. We might need to drink more or engage in riskier activities in order to achieve the same sense of relief or release. This, in turn, leads to greater guilt and more intense pain – and you can see how that can lead us to feel trapped in the cycle. 


At every stage of the cycle we can find an ‘off ramp’. 


Telling a close friend about the pain, journaling, releasing the pent-up emotion with a good cry, prayer & worship – exploring ways to let the emotion out and processing it through rather than trying to escape it. 


Perhaps some physical exercise or fresh air might be a better option. Smashing out a gym session rather than smashing down a slab! Knowing the people to call. Meditating on the truths of God and His Word. Making decisions before the pain is felt about the kind of behaviours that are most helpful rather than reaching for the quickest, easiest options when pain strikes. 


The power of guilt is that its secrecy keeps us captive. ‘What if people find out?’ The act of confession – to both God and other people – disarms the enemy’s ability to manipulate and condemn us with guilt. Perhaps a counsellor, doctor or leader is the most appropriate outlet for this or maybe it’s a parent or trusted friend. 


Confession positions us to receive grace – from God and from others – and perhaps most significantly, from ourselves. The reality is that there is always an option to make a better choice next time or to continue to offload emotional baggage rather than hoarding it. We are given a second (and third, and fourth…) chance. There is opportunity to redeem our hurt or our failure for our good or the benefit of others. Grace. 
Question : How might the illustration of the cycle help you to understand your own responses or the behaviours of others around you? 

Understanding Others #4 – “Help Me Understand”

In our quest to better understand one another an awareness of temperaments and personality types is a useful tool (you can read about them more here). None of these diagnostic instruments can DEFINE you and aren’t intended to PIGEON HOLE you but they can give us great insight into ourselves and one another. We can learn more about the kind of environments where some people will thrive and where others would be completely overwhelmed. We can appreciate that people will engage differently in social situations, that they will be motivated to action in diverse ways and that the way they communicate (talk, listen, respond or react) will be unique to their way of perceiving and receiving information and interpersonal nuances.

As I’ve previously mentioned, understanding firstly myself and then others in this way has been transformational – to my self-acceptance and appreciation, to all of my relationships, to the way I lead and teach, to the way I counsel others, to the way I give instructions and feedback … to virtually every area of my life that involves any kind of interaction with other people.

I’m sure you’ve all reached that point in an interaction with another person (or even an observance of them from afar) where you exclaim “I just don’t understand you!” – either out loud or just to yourself.

“I don’t understand why you would / wouldn’t do that!”

“I don’t understand how you can react that way.”

“I don’t understand why you made that decision.”

“I don’t understand how you so completely misunderstood me!”

“I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

“I don’t understand where you’re coming from.”

“I don’t understand why this matters so much to you.”

“I don’t understand … I’m sure you can fill in this gap yourself…”

Whilst for the most part, this indicates that we’ve come to the end – we’re exhausted, we’re overwhelmed, we’re sick of it: “I don’t understand…” can actually be a very empowering place to find ourselves if we let it be.

“I don’t understand …” is the gateway to “Help me understand” which is the key to unlocking a whole new level of interacting and an entirely different dimension to your relationships.

Solomon says, “though it cost you all you have; get understanding” and the reality is it might only cost you the time to say, “Help me understand.” It really isn’t that high a price to pay for the significant relational improvement that could happen as a result.

When we say “help me understand” we demonstrate that we place a high value on the relationship. When we say “help me understand” we are giving the other person an opportunity to explain themselves to US but also to understand themselves some more as they do. When we say “help me understand” we are giving ourselves tools for better interactions next time, for avoiding coming back to the same old place (y’know … the same old place!) for establishing a new way of tackling an old topic. When we say “help me understand” we are demonstrating a level of grace and submission that are necessary for healthy and helpful human interactions.

Try it out for yourself! Next time you find yourself frustrated, confused, angered or despondent over another person’s attitudes, action or speech; next time you’re in the middle of one of those circular arguments that inevitably escalate; next time you feel the disappointment of another person toward you or fear that you’ve ‘done something wrong’ … try these three words.

“Help me understand.”

More in this series
Understanding Others #1
Understanding Others #2
Understanding Others #3