“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.” ~Sonia Ricotti
I would lie awake at night aching for rest and relief from my racing mind. Hot milk with honey, yoga postures with my feet above my head, no chocolate after three in the afternoon—I had tried it all.
I was weaning myself off sleeping pills. Wrenching myself from my love affair with the tiny white disc. I’d pop it under my tongue to slide from the shackles of adrenaline. They felt impossible to escape.
I’d started using sleeping pills in my last semester of university, having begged my doctor for a prescription to stop the torture of lying awake night after night. One day running straight into the next, and the next, and the next. An endless horror-film loop.
I felt lost.
It wasn’t a new feeling. I’d felt that way for years.
I’d lie awake and wonder why I didn’t feel better, wish I could feel like everyone else seemed to—content, confident, happy. Why wasn’t that my life?
And then, one day, I decided to see what else was possible. If I could feel a different way. If I could feel better.
It took time. And patience. Self-exploration. And courage. But I did get there.
If you’re feeling like I felt then, here are ten things to remember.
1. We’re all in this together.
I’ve felt that way. All of my closest friends have felt that way. Family members of mine have felt that way. And, people who read Tiny Buddha—just like you—have felt that way. Or are feeling that way right now.
One day a friend of mine surprised me. She was someone who always seemed positive and upbeat. Always sunny.
I said to her, “Some days I just feel so alone, like nothing is okay.” She said: “Me too.” It made me feel better, and less alone. We’re all in this together.
2. People share the highlights, not the lowlights.
We can feel anxious, sad, and unhappy after going on Facebook or Instagram. We can end up feeling like we don’t have an awesome enough life;, like, if we don’t have a glamorous event to photograph and share, we suck.
But people share the highlights, not the lowlights. I’ve talked with so many people whose lives look amazing on Facebook and Instagram who tell me, “I feel sad. I feel like no one cares. I feel alone.”
3. It’s okay to be right where you are.
Sometimes we think we need to be making progress and moving forward, that we need to be a shining ray of light all the time. But the truth is, we need times when we’re pausing.
Those times are often when we feel more lost and alone. We’re figuring things out, re-evaluating what we thought we wanted. It helps to let ourselves rest in the knowledge that this time is natural and normal, rather than tell ourselves we need to be making progress and moving forward.
4. Change happens in the mess.
The truth is that we often can’t feel better until we have a little meltdown. Or a big one. Change means shifting into something different, and to do that we may need to let go of some things and allow them melt away. This can get messy.
I had to let go of the thought that I needed to be what everyone else thought I should be. To do this, I started to notice my thinking, especially thoughts that included the words “should” and “have to.” Then I got myself to question those thoughts: Is that absolutely true? Do you have to?
When I gave myself the time and space to explore those questions, a freedom came. It was the experience of being able to question my own thinking, which helped me see that I didn’t need to believe all of my thoughts. From there, I was able to choose other thoughts. From there, I was able to choose other actions.
That change wouldn’t have happened without me getting messy, having a meltdown, and letting go of some things.
5. New beginnings can feel like endings.
Do you remember a time when you started something new? A new school year? A new summer break? A new relationship?
I bet if you look back you’ll recognize that there was an ending that happened before that new beginning. And during that ending you might have been sad and felt alone. But eventually, those feelings transformed when the ending gave way to a new beginning.
6. It’s easier if you let it be there.
The harder we fight the way we’re feeling, the harder it is to feel that way. The more we let it be there, the easier it gets to feel that way. The feeling no longer feels scary, or like something we need to try to avoid.
And often, as a result, the feeling will fade away. Sometimes quickly. But resisting the feeling can make it feel bigger and harder to handle.
7. Being alone can bring you peace.
When we’re alone, we’re faced with our feelings and our thoughts. It’s harder to distract ourselves.
If we let these times of feeling lost and alone be all that they can be—messy, uncomfortable, hard—we can learn to handle them. We can learn that they don’t need to be avoided. And that helps us feel stronger, like we can handle anything, and that can bring us peace.
8. Feelings can heal you.
All of the emotions that arise when we feel lost and alone can point to what we need to heal within ourselves. They can be like signposts on the road to freedom, saying, “Look over here. Go this way.”
The sadness I felt when I felt most alone was pointing my attention toward expectations I had of myself: that I had to be in a relationship in order to be happy, that I had to be busy and socializing all of the time in order to be like other people, that I had to live an exciting-all-the-time life.
Letting go of those expectations helped me heal those misunderstandings within myself. Without the sadness, I wouldn’t have spotted them.
9. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you.
I hesitated to write this in this way. And I don’t mean it to sound harsh or unfeeling.
Accepting that life is kind of sucky sometimes can help us get through the times where we feel lost and alone. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It’s just part of being alive.
10. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Okay, I know it might actually rain. But what will happen for sure is that a new day will dawn. And in the dawn of a new day, you might feel better.
Also, be gentle. Be soft. Be caring. We’re all in this together. And there are other people who feel exactly the same way.
Editor’s note: Lindsey has offered to give away two copies of her new book. From Darkness to Light: Devil Wears Prada meets Eat Pray Love. An uplifting story of personal transformation, travel, and starting over. To enter to win a free copy, leave a comment below.