It’s OK to not be OK

It started in the car on the way home from exchanging Christmas presents that didn’t fit. We had battled the shops, which were filled with grumpy men, frustrated women and bored children, charging their way from shop to shop, annoyed that of the many lovely things they were holding in their hands, none of them was right. 

I stood back and tried to block it out. The music was too loud, the shops were too hot, there were too many people, but we had things to do and that meant leaving the house to do them. When I’m like this, I don’t like leaving the house. I don’t like seeing anyone and pretending that everything is ok. Everything outside of my house feels too MUCH, and instead of feeling jolly and festive I feel overwhelmed, scared and depressed. This Christmas break has been one of those times.

It started because Nick mentioned we were going to have to film our “What’s on this week” for our website when we got home. I looked out the window, staring at Christmas lights flashing aggressively outside someone’s house. It was enough to induce some kind of attack, there was nothing twinklingly festive about it; it was like shouting “Merry Christmas!” while baring fangs. 

“What are we going to be saying?” I asked him.

“What we’ve been up to over Christmas, what new articles we’ve got, and wishing everyone a happy new year – that kind of thing.”

I paused for a while.

“Can we do it tomorrow?”

“It needs to go up tonight.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s Sunday. We always put them up on a Sunday.”

“It’s Christmas break, no one knows what day it is. Can’t we do it tomorrow?”

“Why don’t you want to do it tonight?”

How did I tell him? 

Because I couldn’t fake being happy tonight? Switching on the bright, cheery smile that everyone expects from me, saying I hoped they’d all had a fantastic Christmas, and wasn’t it fun over-indulging and going out and spending time with friends and family and I hoped everyone had a FANTASTIC New Year’s Eve and made incredible resolutions and next year is going to be AWESOME!! 

Most of the time, I believe in the glass half full. I truly believe that if you want something, and you dream about it work your butt off for it, you create the energy and momentum that carries you towards your dream. I feel it inside me as a warm glow of positivity, and it drives me on, over obstacles and around them. I see endless possibilities, and while parts of my road are bumpy, I am strong enough to absorb the jolts and I keep moving forwards.

But other times, and it seems to always happen towards the end of one year and the start of another, when it is dark and cold there doesn’t ever seem to be enough light in the sky, my glass empties. Maybe it’s because this is when I stop for a while, and have the time to think about what I’d hoped for this year? Or maybe it’s because it’s the time when we are all supposed to be having so much fun? I don’t know. But once Christmas Day has gone, and the children have had their joy, mine seems to evaporate into the air. 

It doesn’t happen every year; last year was one of the happiest Christmases I have ever had – I had just got married to the man who has brought me so much love and understanding. I truly feel that I have met my soulmate, and I am so grateful for him. I am healthy. My children are normal kids; with all the ups, downs, highs and lows that teens and pre-teens bring to a household. I am lucky. I am loved. I have much to be thankful for and I am thankful for all of it.

So why do I feel like this? How can I describe it? 

It feels like drowning on dry land.

It’s like I’m hearing things under water; it’s muffled and unclear and I feel detached from everyone else, separated somehow, even though I am in the room and you can see me, I’m not really there.

It’s like death by paper cuts.

Sometimes I feel too much; everything is too loud, too intense. Every small, inconsequential thing severs a nerve. Every word hurts, every look stings. My head gets full.

It is not one big thing, it is a billion tiny things. It is all too much, and I am not enough.

The strange thing is, if one of my dear friends told me they were feeling like this, I would be full of sympathy and understanding. I would encourage them to do whatever they felt they needed to do to get better; get professional help, speak to a doctor, exercise, watch what they eat, do yoga, meditate, write it all down, get it all out… whatever it took. I know all of these things. I do all of these things, but sometimes it doesn’t work and I just want it to GO AWAY and LEAVE ME ALONE. 

Nick wasn’t sure I should write this. He said: “You’ll just open the floodgates with people saying ‘It’s alright for you, what have you got to be depressed, anxious and stressed about?’” He said this out of concern and love, not because he thinks this of me, but because he was worried that if I said these things out loud, people would attack me, and it would hurt, and it would make me worse. 

He’s right of course. 

But we talked about it, and one of the things that we take great pride in This Girl Is On Fire is our honesty. I believe in everythingI say and do on this site; I believe in people, and I want to champion all of us to be our best possible selves. But there are some dark days when I don’t believe in it for me. And I feel like such a failure for saying it out loud; like I am letting so many people down, because how am I supposed to inspire and lead the way, when I don’t always feel like I can do it myself?

And then I remembered an interview I did a few weeks ago for a podcast. It is a podcast that I believe in so hard, and have worked for and pushed for and I have finally done a pilot for and I now have my fingers, toes, eyes and any other part of me that can be crossed that it will get commissioned and will get the go-ahead. For the pilot I interviewed the wonderful Bryony Gordon. Now, I have a very large place in my heart for Bryony because she is everything I wish I could be. She’s super-smart, funny, articulate and most of all HONEST. She has shown herself to the world, flaws and all, and said “Do you know what? This is me, this is who I am, and it’d be great if you like it, but if you don’t then suit yourself.” Or words to that effect. I asked to interview her because I think she’s “On Fire”, something she, surprisingly to me, doesn’t think. We talked about her achievements, of which there are many, but then it got down to why I think she’s so great. For me, it isn’t down to the times when she achieves great things, it’s the fact that when she falls down she always gets back up again. In essence, it’s her ability to openly speak out and say she needs to stop for a while, to admit that she is struggling, and then somehow get back on her feet and keep moving forward. Anyone can keep moving forward if that’s something they find easy. What takes real strength is say you need to stop and regroup, then stand up again and put one foot in front of the other. 

I realised tonight that this is something I don’t ever allow myself to do. I am harder on myself than I would ever be on a friend, a loved one or my children. Why do I see feeling these things as normal and understandable in other people but as a failing in myself? I should just “pull myself together and stop being such an attention-seeker”. The voice inside my head sneers: “You’re embarrassing and weak, and you disgust me. Get up, and get on with it…”

My list of crises and issues I have dealt with in my life are longer than some and shorter than others. Some you will know about; many you won’t. Some are easy to discuss openly because they are things that people experience every day in their own way. Others are not and I choose to keep them to myself. All of them, large and small, in their shades of grey to darkest black, are part of the jigsaw that make up me.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace, love and good will to all. I may be a little late this year, but from tonight, I am going to start by extending that good will to myself, as well as those I love. It’s ok to not be ok sometimes. This is just one of those times. As Nick says to me: “You’re just having a moment”. That’s all this is. “This too shall pass” is one of my favourite sayings in life, and right now, I just need to focus on that. This moment isn’t forever; I got through last week, I got through yesterday, I got through today, I can get through tomorrow.

Tomorrow we will film our “What’s on this week” for you, and I will mean it when I wish you all a happy new year. I will say it honestly, because that’s what we do here. This Girl Is On Fire is our kitchen table where we talk openly and honestly about ourselves, including the dark stuff as well as the light. That’s what makes all of us “on fire”.

With much love,

Andrea. x

45 Responses

  1. Wow…. so heartfelt and honest. After following you on instagram I have just read your New Years post and found your website which I never new existed! It’s brilliant! I always watch you on loose women and really enjoy it when you’re on the show. You seem such a down to earth lovely person. After reading this article I like you even more! It just shows that you are a completely normal person like everyone else! Im a normal girl with Lots of lovely friends and family and I’m normally the supporter and listener, but I also feel the way you just described sometimes. I actually think it’s pretty ‘normal’ to sometimes feel like this, and if you asked around a lot of people sometimes feel this way, but just aren’t as honest as you and don’t admit it. I think it’s so brave of you to write this, and I also know it will help a lot of people today! I woke up feeling abit urghhhhh this morning…. but after reading this It’s made me realise that I’m not alone in my thoughts!! Keep up the good work… this is the first article I’ve read on your website and I can’t wait to read more!!!! Xx

  2. Thank you Andrea for been so honest.

    I myself felt like this over Xmas. We carry on without letting people know how we really feel.

    We are so good at listening to others and offering help but when it comes to ourselves it always seems to me that there is no one there.

    It’s so nice to hear that there are othe people going through the same thing.

    Thank you Andrea.

    Debbie Holden ??

  3. Thank you for being so honest. You could be me, I am a successful woman with a wonderful family who consistantly show their utmost love, appreciation and admiration for me yet, most of the time, I feel useless. However, you would never know, to everyone else I am strong and dynamic but each day I drag myself out of bed; paint on a smile and listen to endless issues and sort out other people’s problems.
    Your blog really resonated with me, especially the part about noise, I work in a incredibly noisy environment but recently the noise has been acute and almost deafening. It seems to pierce straight through and stabs me in the stomach churning and screwing it into
    a tight ball, even the sound of the shower turning in in the morning has that effect. What is that all about? Menopause? I overthink everything and blow everything out of proportion, always looking for issues
    that haven’t arisen and even plan for the worst case scenarios.
    Listening to your honesty, although it made me weep, has helped me. Thank you. I know now that everyone
    faces challenges and what’s the worst that can happen? So… I have a bad day. At least I have my health and a caring and loving family.
    I am off to start my jar of achievements for the year
    starting with a realisation that life can’t always be perfect but as long as I tried my best that’s enough.
    Thank you. Andrea. x

    1. Thank you for getting in touch with me, you have helped me too! The over-sensitivity to noise can be overwhelming on top of everything else. I’m trying to get outside and at least walk every day just to clear my head, I’m finding that helps, even in this horrible weather. Lots of love to you, Andrea. x

  4. It’s nice to hear this from someone who’s in the public eye and nice like you , I’ve felt like that everyday for a year since I lost my brother on Boxing Day 2017 .

    The happy let’s do it me is gone , I’m not young or successful but was trying to build up my own little cottage industry of floristry but it’s gone . It’s like I don’t want and I’m not aloud to be happy . I’ve got a wonderful husband who is kind and patient , an amazing son and two gorgeous grandsons , so why can’t I summon up sunshine smiles or enthusiasm?

    I’ve gone from hair make up nails to pjs , pjs and more pjs making up every excuse in the book not to go out . Gp just wants to prescribe anti depressants but that’s not the answer . I wish so much I could find the answer , maybe I’ll find it through your page ,
    With love S x

    1. Hi Susie, you sound like you are going through an incredibly difficult time, and have been for a very long time. If you don’t think anti-depressants are the answer, even just to help you over this horrible hurdle, perhaps some kind of grief therapy would help you? I hope you find something that works for you, you deserve to be happy, we all do. Sending you love, Andrea. x

  5. Thank you for being so honest and saying the things that we all think !! Your descriptions are exactly how I and many other women of our age are feeling; it can be so difficult to describe and you put it so beautifully. I don’t generally tell anyone how I’m feeling, but you’ve made me think that sharing is a good idea. I’m always the first person to take care of others and give them guidance but don’t do it for myself!! Thanks again for speaking up for us all- love your honesty. Please don’t stop xxx

  6. You have been through a very tough time and still are and you are absolutely entitled to get depressed . I was told by my counsellor and abdominal physio o am too hard on myself and would be tough on a friend as I am to myself! I could see that your cleansing diet is taking it’s toll on you during the live Saturday chat and that’s just putting up with a mangry husband! Honestly though I find your book has become my Bible and I’m positive you can survive this blip as you are both there for each other through this stomach cleanse and will reap the rewards in the long run. Keep going , you will get through it stronger and you continue to be an inspiration to many people including myself! Be kind to yourself , easier said than done I know! Lara.x

    1. Hi Lara, thank you – self kindness is sometimes the hardest gift to give isn’t it? Best wishes to you, love Andrea. x

  7. It must have been difficult for you to write this Andrea but I do hope it has helped you knowing that many of us will or do feel the same. This is a fantastic page because where else does a famous person do this and shows that they are just like us. Ive been in some very dark places many times and hope I never go back there. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this. I hope you feel better very soon. I love yous two. Yous are such funny and lovely people. Take care and lots of love. Sharon xxx

    1. Thank you Sharon. I had to take a deep breath before posting it, as I wasn’t sure how it would be received. But I’m so glad I did as it seems to have helped people know they’re not the only ones who feel this way. Thanks for getting in touch. Love Andrea. x

  8. Thank you so much for sharing and being so honest. I think your willingness to share this is inspirational. I had a huge dip over Christmas from a variety of triggers, some similar to your and I think the best thing I did was be honest about that with my nearest loved ones. For that I’m proud of myself and that’s not something I find easy to to say as my inner voice is very critical. I think your post will resonate with a lot of people and reassure them, myself included, that they are not alone in feeling this way. It’s so important to open up the conversation on mental health so thank you again for this post c

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you for getting in touch. I’m glad you are able to be open with loved ones, it makes a huge difference knowing you are supported. Sending you love, Andrea. x

  9. i’m so glad you wrote this, and i am with you 100%.

    i believe my medication is no longer working for me, but usually i can push through and manage. however, just before christmas i ended up relapsing with self-harm because nothing felt real. it was like, everything was happening but i was just watching it all go by. i dont know, everything you wrote in italics describes it all so well. now it’s a week into the new year and i’m just trying to push myself forward until i have the motivation and confidence to make a doctors appointment. it feels incredibly validating to have someone say all of that which i relate to so well, and not be like ‘but exercise made everything better!’ or something along those lines. it’s nice to have someone say that sometimes you just have to wait it out, etc.

    i’m almost a month free from self-harm now, and i’m trying to get myself back on track.

    Thank you for sharing this. It means so much. J x

    1. Hi Jessica, I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a tough time, and I’m glad you got some comfort from reading this. We all just have to take things a day at a time. Sending you love, Andrea. x

  10. Thanks for sharing Andrea. I’m feeling the same for two Christmases now. Keep on telling myself it will be fine all the time. You are very inspiring and I love reading your blogs. It is ok to be not okay so if you need to take a break from everything that’s okay too. xx

  11. I love your honesty Andrea, this is just normal life, we have to accept the bad days to really appreciate the good. Happy New Year X

  12. Thank you Andrea for your honestly.
    I think there is so much pressure to have a “wonderful Christmas” and spend it with family and friends and everything will be wonderful like a Disney movie! It’s never like that.
    This year has been momentous in our house since my husband had a bad accident in March. We hoped he would be back to “normal”- what ever that is by now, and here we are in January with so many unanswered questions about prognosis and long term health. I’m drowning in the responsibility of trying to keep our home together with kids who are no longer kids and are outgrowing me. I know we bring them up to be self sufficient but when you feel low and cup half empty it’s like your life and world as you know it is disappearing. Maybe its hormonal, maybe it’s our age, maybe it’s the hysterectomy….but what ever the reasons it’s ok to feel not ok. And it’s even better that we share it with other women so we remember we are on fire. And we need more of this honesty to help each other through the dark days. Thank you ❤️

    1. Hi Michelle, thank you for getting in touch and sharing your story. I hope you find some peace and calm in your ‘new normal’ soon. Sending you love, Andrea x

  13. Hi Andrea,
    I just wanted to say a BIG thank you to you! I’ve been following you for a few years on and off the screen and you are so inspirational to myself with your kindness and honesty! I’m 21 and in my last year of university with so many mixed emotions- where do I go after this? Sometimes I forget that it’s ok to not be ok and to cancel a commitment! I always try to remember that those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!
    Thank you for always being honest❤️
    Happy new year to you all x

  14. Hi Andrea,
    I’d like to say a BIG thank you to you! I’ve been following you for a few years on and off screen & you are such an inspiration to me for your kindness & honesty you show! I’m 21 and in my last year of university with lots of mixed emotions- the unknown, whats next??‍♀️ I sometimes forget that it’s ok to not be ok and, it’s ok to cancel a commitment because your not having a good day! But I suppose we have to remember that those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind!
    Thank you❤️
    Happy new year to you all x

    1. Hi Gabriella, you are absolutely right! Those who matter really don’t mind, they love and support you… Love Andrea x

  15. That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling all over Xmas. Thank you for being so honest I wish you and your family a fab 2019 x much love x Dawn

  16. Dear Andrea,
    Thank you for sharing. I believe honest communication can change the world, sometimes one person at a time, sometimes billions at a time, but large or small both are hugely important.
    You changed my life by talking about your hysterectomy. Somehow I discovered you here state-side just when I needed someone to be talking about it. I just fell in love with your smile, your honesty, your inner beauty.
    I want you to know how grateful I am for your openness and how even though I’ll probably never meet you I care about your journey.
    I pray for you and your husband and kids regularly.
    You are special. Take care, Andrea❤️and happiest of New Years!

    1. Hi Leslie, Thanks so much for getting in touch – wow! I can’t believe someone in America has heard about me, I’m delighted! It is truly lovely to hear from you, thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Love, Andrea x

  17. Thank you Andrea for being so honest, I have felt exactly the same, I suffer with anxiety and depression and its always just after Christmas that it hits the hardest. It is like a black,heavy blanket that smothers me. I always feel guilty for feeling this way but it toally zaps me of every ounce of energy and I just want to hide away until Spring. But now we are finally in February and hopefully there is a glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel. I don’t think being in the menopause is helping me either. We as women want to be the perfect, wife mother etc but sometimes like someone said to me just being enough is enough. Keep writing Andrea you are helping us all x

    1. Hi Lisa, I think it’s the guilt that hits the hardest isn’t it? I like your friend’s advice, it makes perfect sense, even if we struggle to bear it in mind – we are enough.

      Thank you for getting in touch,

      Andrea. x

  18. Hi Andrea,
    Thankyou for your post just sat and read through with my coffee. You’re human darling lady, be gentle with yourself and I agree wholeheartedly that honesty starts with ourselves. How on Earth are we to sort things out if we can’t start there first! For you – wellthe double whammy of being in the public eye, but you’re helping many in comparison to any negative comments you may receive, hey you get those if you’re not in the public eye!
    We cannot be all things to all people,but I’m thankful for people like you who allow me to be ‘OK’ on a day I don’t always feel ok. How I wish my younger self had role models / advice back then, my wiser self (at 56!) has got here by default lol! Not that you need validation from me but I think you’re a wonderful role model, you’re real / Honest and just nice and that’s important- keep doing what you’re doing. But if you have a day, like we all have then put yourself first and give Andrea a bit of self love ? because you’re worth it Gail ?

    1. Hi Gail,

      Thank you so much for this – I love the idea that you read this article while sitting having your coffee, it’s exactly how I hoped women would see it! You’ve given me a boost on a very cold February day, and I appreciate it.

      Love Andrea. x

  19. Dear Andrea

    Reading this is exactly me this year. I tried to carry on and like you I’m harder on myself than I would be to anyone else. I ended up breaking down at work and am now signed off work for 3 weeks. I know it’s a "blip" and everyone around me have been supportive but just feel like a zombie at the moment taking a day at a time.
    I love reading your work and listened to your menopause book last summer too. Keep being honest and entertaining us all on loose women. I think your an inspiration xx

    Helen Hodges from Hull

    1. Hi Helen,

      I’m really sorry to hear that you had a breakdown at work; I think that’s something a lot of us secretly worry about on top of everything else. It’s great that they and everyone around you are being so supportive – that’s a relief in itself. Sometimes we have to take it a second, and a minute, and an hour, and a day at a time, before looking up and realising we have survived a whole week, and we are creeping like a snail slowly forwards. Every tiny bit of forward movement helps.

      Sending you love, and I hope you feel better soon,

      Andrea. x

  20. Hi Andrea

    I only asked to join your emails this year, but I am so pleased I did. I read your post this morning before going shopping, lunch with my friend and then onto visit my mum who is 91 and in a home. She is not doing so good at the minute but at least she has had 5 good years in the home and they look after her really well. I don’t feel as guilty as I did when she first moved in there as I know she is much safer there.
    January isn’t always a good month for me either. Dark nights the "after Christmas blues", it is just too much sometimes. 2018 I seemed to be ok, but this year for some reason I felt – I won’t say depressed – more miserable. I couldn’t put my finger on why. We had gone to Anglesey for the New Year and stayed in a lovely cottage. We had good weather too. So why was I feeling like this?
    But reading what you said made me feel so much better and that it is "ok not to be ok"
    The nights are getting lighter slowly, we might have the snow and cold weather, but the snowdrops are pushing through and spring is on its way.
    So "thank you" Andrea for making me feel so much better today and all your other replies that I am not alone in how I feel.
    Love Marj xxx

  21. Hi Andrea

    I tried to post last night, but not sure what I did wrong as it hasn’t appeared. I was agreeing with your comment about "its ok to not be ok". I always feel the same around this time of year, except for 2017 and not sure what happened that year, but I felt "ok".
    Today the sun is shining and I am out for lunch with ex work friends as 3 of us are now retired and we try to meet for a "catch up" at least 3 times a year.
    So today I am feeling definitely "ok" and hope I will feel the same tomorrow. We are now into February and the snowdrops are pushing through so here is to a better month and year :o)

    Love Marjorie xxxx

  22. Just flicking through your new website and read the above article – very heart warming. Has really made me think things through. Thank you ?

  23. Having only just discovered your website I have only read a few articles, those I felt relevant to me to start with. This one particular has hit home and has put into words the feelings I have about myself, the anxiety I feel about a lot of things, as well as the guilt I get for feeling this way when there are people who are a lot worse off than I am and I should be more grateful and less resentful. Having no wider family support network I rely on my partner all the time. I have isolated myself from others as most friendships I’ve had as an adult have turned toxic, caused me upset and have drained me. I feel stuck in a black hole that gets deeper all the time and I cannot get out. I did think that at 41 I would have felt somewhat content with positive aspirations for my future, instead I have to live day to day at present never knowing what tomorrow may have in store, so I shall be reading the posts you have to offer help and self preservation and practicing the techniques suggested as there is no better person to advise than those who have experienced similar things. Thank you for sharing such personal things, I am so glad to finally feel I’m not alone and that things can get better

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