I should be stronger.
I should be smarter.
I should be slimmer.
I should be healthier.
I should be better.
I should do more.
How many times have you asked yourselves these questions? How many times have you forced out a smile and said, “I’m alright” when someone asked how you are? I bet that the answer is “All the time.” You probably feel that you can’t speak up when you have a bad day, or a bad year, that people will think you’re complaining, that your friends and family have their own issues and you don’t want to burden them with yours.
I know. I’ve been there. Hell, I live there! And you know what? I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to not be okay. That sometimes “How are you?” is an honest inquiry about your well-being, and someone actually cares about the answer.
I rarely open up about my life. I feel that if people know about my problems that’s a sign of weakness and vulnerability. And yes, there have been times when I regretted my candor. But there have been many more times when talking to a loved one or even to a stranger saved my sanity—or at least, it put a band-aid on it.
I’m having the hardest year of my life. In November 2021 my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s a cliché, but I never thought something like that could happen to him. He used to say this kind of illness would never get close to him, but it did. All the doctors I talked to said he probably had a few months left to live. I didn’t tell my father that, and I didn’t believe it. He was the strongest man I knew, I was sure he was going to beat this illness. Although the odds were grim, I kept hoping and fighting with every weapon I had. How weak each of them were…
What followed were six months of an emotional rollercoaster. He did so well when he first started chemotherapy that I began believing he would be okay. I did my best to take care of him, spend time with him, pushed myself to limits I didn’t know I had. But fate tricked us. Each step we took, even before his diagnosis, was always a step behind the illness. The healthcare system moved too slowly, the tests took too long, the doctors didn’t monitor him properly. So in the final month I watched my father go through a terrible agony, before he passed away in May this year. It was like watching Zeus fall.
If hell exists, it cannot possibly be worse than dying like that, or than watching someone you love die. It’s something that changes you forever. There is no going back to the person you were before after watching a loved one die under your helpless eyes.
Needless to say, this was the biggest trauma in my life, and the pain is far from being over. It took a toll on everything, including my writing career. I was already having trouble with writer’s block, and my dad’s diagnosis completely killed my creativity. I only wrote a few pages here and there since November 2021. And all this time, day after day, I have been beating myself up for not being able to write. I’m still beating myself up for feeling down, for being depressed, for being tired, for not meeting my own (unrealistic) expectations, and so much more.
I deleted this article many times before I decided to publish it. I have no idea who will read it, and bearing your soul in front of strangers is damn hard and uncomfortable. But you know what? I think it’s brave too. And sometimes it can bring you relief and peace such as you never knew. Because we are all humans, we all suffer, and we should comfort each other. There is too much hate and pain around us, and the world seems a pretty bad place right now.
So give yourself a break when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Talk to people. Cultivate friendships. Help others. Because a better world starts with you and me. And so does a happier life.
If you’ve come this far, I would like to thank you for reading and to ask How are you? Tell me in the comments, and who knows? You might find a new friend today.
Until next time, sending you love and strength.
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Melinda De Ross is the first Romanian to become a USA Today bestselling author. A prolific writer, she weaves humorous romance and tension-filled thrillers with the same enthusiasm. Her books combine the elegance of European literature with the modern appeal of American culture. While she’s a law graduate and professional target shooter, she prefers to spend her days spinning tales for her readers. In her downtime, she’d rather read or watch a classic movie than go to a noisy club. She loves to hear from readers, so if you have a question or want to learn more about her books, visit her website: MelindaDeRoss.com