To Everyone Who’s Barely Holding it Together

By Hanna Brooks Olsen on Friday May 26th, 2017

Image: Juan Morales

Good Job Today

I remember a lot of days feeling like an egg; an intact shell that looked smooth and clean, with an inside that was messy and maybe even rotten. You’d have to break it to find out, I guess, but it never quite broke. A thin membrane was all that was keeping it together.

White-knuckling, I described it to my doctor.

When you’re barely holding it together, every day is a long and tiresome struggle, every challenge of every size potentially ruinous. Maybe you’re barely holding it together financially — many people are; death by a thousand expenses. Maybe it’s a threadbare social network that’s left your nerves feeling stripped and exposed. Maybe it’s a marriage, maybe it’s parenting, maybe it’s the desire to parent and the inability to, maybe it’s systemic racism that keeps you working twice as hard for half as much, and maybe it’s some combination of these and more.

In spite of whatever it is that keeps picking, picking, picking little pieces of your shell away, you still manage to make it to school or work, or to pick up the kids, or to go to the store, or even to walk the dog. And for that, I want to say: good job.

Life is a struggleWhen you’re barely holding it together, every day is a long and tiresome struggle.Image: Johann LIBOT.

I Saw You

I saw you yesterday in traffic as you let your head roll back and bump softly into the headrest, eyes looking at the moonroof, shoulders slumped.

I saw you walking briskly to the bus, jaw jutted as if the tension there would keep the tears in a little longer.

I saw you confidently shake a hand with a hand that had no fingernails to speak of.

I saw your inner arm as you handed me my change.

Good job today. You did what you had to do. And good job tomorrow, when you do it again. If no one has told you that recently, I want to tell you that. Good job.

When you’re sitting across from someone who you actually really like, but all you can think is you don’t know me at all.

When your constant mantras are ‘What was I thinking’ or ‘Why did I do that’, but then, ‘It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it turned out ok’.

When you’re in a meeting and smiling politely, but what you really want to do is yell and storm out.

When you do yell and storm out and it feels so damn good, but then you get home and cry because there’s an unexpected bill in the mailbox.

When someone dies. When someone leaves. When something breaks. When multiple terrible things happen on the same day.

When you try to seek help in our complex and expensive patchwork of systems, only to be turned down and turned away and consequently turned off the entire horrible process.

Good job.

Strong in the broken placesIt takes courage to let it break and start the process of putting it back together. Image:
Jay Mullings.

And if one day you don’t manage to hold it together? If one poke is too many and the shell cracks, or outright shatters? Good job for making it as long as you did, and good job for not protecting anyone from your own internal tempest anymore. Good job for starting the process of putting it back together; maybe it will be stronger in the broken places.

We have so many modern conveniences — the super-computers in our pockets, the medicine that keeps us living longer, the apps that pick us up and drop us off and get our laundry handled and our meals delivered, the machines that squeeze our bags of juice — but we also have so many modern challenges, many with no simple solution. So we just keep going; keep holding it together until conditions improve.

The thing that few people will ever admit is that all of us are feeling for the switch in the dark every day and some days we find it, and some days we don’t. And some days we do but the bulb is burned out and even just the reaching and reaching is an accomplishment.

So this is just to say, if you are barely holding it together: good job.




A Daily Self-Care Ritual for Those Who Feel Lost in Life


As I Began to Love Myself


The Importance of Truly Embracing Self-Compassion

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31 Responses to To Everyone Who’s Barely Holding it Together

  1. I feel for the people writing here. Back about 45-50 years ago, I took over an Army Cadet group of about 30 boys, most of whom had come from poor areas, had little self confidence, poor students etc. In 21 groups of our geographical area, they were 19th. about that time, girls were allowed to join, and about 12 signed up. , The first winter was mostly counseling, with some of the regular subjects added. In the spring I arranged for a trailer of canoes, and started taking them out for weekends on some of the near wilderness lakes in our area, Success! They took to the water and woods like they were born there. In the fall, they wanted to keep on going to the woods, so we borrowed winter tents from the Army, One of our counselors loved to cook on the portable field kitchens, and an outdoor type lady had joined us, and we taught wilderness survival, map and compass and first aid. To make it short, that went on for four years. The crew had gained enough to make it 60= MEMBERS, AND HAD GONE FRON 19TH TO 4TH PLACE IN THE AREA.
    A few years ago, I became aware of a program called “Forest Bathing’. It centers around time spent in the woods, even if a city park. Something to look up. can be followed almost anywhere.

    • What an inspiring story Murray! Yes, forest bathing has wonderful, proven benefits for our minds, bodies and souls. It’s great to hear that the idea is spreading 🙂 Well done on the hard work and passion you have put into this group over the years and thank you for sharing.

      Team UPLIFT

  2. During the last 2+ yrs until today, I have been suffering from Chronic physical pain and continuing health decline, financial challenges. Alone, Isolated. COVID-19 came along and my 2 year wait for necessary specialist appt’s disappeared. I had previously reached out to Family and Friends. I received scattered verbal support, all apologizing for not being in the position to help me. I am not angry or disappointed with anyone. I am angry and disillusioned at the challenges I am facing. I’m now, doing my best, to wear a mask of “I’m ok”. Hopefully my Family and Friends will no longer feel uncomfortable with and around me and my pain. If I am successful, instead of avoiding me all together, maybe now they’ll get in touch me, meet up with me, look at me and relax, thinking how much better I am doing. I hope it would appear that way, because, alas I manage to hide it so well some days. Other days not so much. Although my Family and Friends will always have my Love, however they can’t possibly know or understand the physical & mental & emotional torment I deal with each and every single day. (you have to ‘feel it’, your own personal ‘Hell’, to understand it). I may not be suicidal but if my soul were to effortlessly leave my fragile, broken, Human Host while I sleep, I would be FREE! What a wonderful peaceful feeling that would be.

    • Sharon,
      It’s heartbreaking to hear you are in such pain and feel so isolated. I (we) are truly sorry. I can’t imagine how hard that must be… I sincerely hope that you find someone or some support people that you might be able to be your full self around, someone/people that understand, or at least try to. Perhaps there is a hotline you could call to express your thoughts and feelings and be fully heard? Here in Australia it’s a free service, open to anyone and everyone, called Lifeline and I believe there would be something similar in most countries around the world.

      It is my deepest wish that you find peace and love and support for your heart and soul soon.
      So much love to you dear Sharon.

      Team UPLIFT

  3. I wear a mask of “Everything’s ok” so my family and friends don’t have to feel uncomfortable with my pain. They look at me and think how much better I am doing because I hide it so well. As much as I love them they just don’t know me or can understand the mental and emotional torment I deal with each day. I’m not suicidal but if I could die quietly in my sleep tonight it would be a blessing.

    • April,
      I’m sorry to hear that you struggle with mental and emotional pain on a daily basis, and that you feel you need to put on a mask to make others feel comfortable. Do you think that by being even just a little bit more honest with them they might, over time, come to understand you and your experience better? They will never know if you don’t tell them. Otherwise, is there a professional that you could talk to so at least you can express and move through your struggles with some support?

      I hope you find a little more lightness and joy in your heart each day. Thank you for sharing with us <3

      Team UPLIFT

  4. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today if it’s strength.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom ( Holocaust survivor) and one of my go to quotes when I’m fretting over things I shouldn’t and have no control over.

    ~ Madelene

  5. This is me every day. I feel like this is most people every day. Would we do? What’s the solution. Is the answer I really need to just keep clinging to hope? Is the answer really “Hang in there!” Or “ Just keep going! it’ll get better”?? I have literally been waiting six months for a therapist appointment. I told the receptionist “it’s fine, I can wait six months. I’m not suicidal at the moment“. She completely blew it off. I know that I’m lucky to be alive. And it is solely because I am just holding it together. That entire article was mean. Socially, there is no one and nothing. Financially, nothing. But I keep dressing up for those interviews! For jobs that I really don’t want.… Anyway………

  6. Thank you. Almost 2 yrs have gone by with me tippingtoward the edge im in tears right now ans its the first time ive sat down and cried i mean really cried i lost my best friend od 40+ yrs a week later my 20 yr old niece and 2 weeks later my husband of 7 short years all to death. And i have been slowly loosing my mind so i needed this

  7. I am 82 years old. Life has been a struggle, with many heartache, and heartbreaks. I have four grown children. The one that is a alcoholic Tells me that she hates me and wishes me dead. She tells me that my other children feel the same way. She tells me to commit suicide. No one would even care. I try to stay in my room, except when I go to go to the bathroom. How can I get over feeling depressed ? Is there anyone out there that can tell me what I can do ?

    • Dear Shirley,
      It HURTS when others, especially family, spew words of contempt that tear at your heart and soul. People who consistently spew such things are dumping what is inside of them on whoever is the safest or most vulnerable. People who spew such things are miserable, lost, confused, and are often saying to you what they believe about themselves. I hope you will reach out to the people, activities, places, and deep breaths that nourish your heart and soul and that help you remember to not take on and carry around other people’s verbal waste (even if they’re family). Have you considered seeing a therapist who can be a source of support in the midst of a painful and complex family dynamic? Holding you in light and hope.

    • Shirley, that is so awful and sad. You can charge your family with emotional abuse, elder abuse. Try to seek protection any way you can away from them. Im sorry you have to go through that. God bless and keep you.

  8. I read this after I attempted suicide only a week ago, my friends found me and took me to the hospital. For a moment I felt like they should not have done that because life is still just as difficult. I have always been an introvert and this is my attempt to try and open up. This article just made me realize that I am just holding on to something. I felt like there are people out there who get me. It’s still hard for me but thanks lots for this

  9. This article came at a time I needed it most. Although attempting to live life philosophically has been my mantra, events occur that overshadow that goal. I’m trying my best to keep carrying on, but around every corner has been another struggle. Just a few days ago I lost my job due to elimination of the position, couldn’ Be at a worse time. The article made me feel understood, and sometimes that’s enough, at least for one day.

  10. As a mother and full time carer of an adult son, since a skateboarding accident claimed his independence, I run on empty most days. I often feel alone. I cried with relief reading this article, as though the author understood our struggle. Thank you for saying, good job!

  11. I am at the point of “Why bother?” The only thing that keeps me here is knowing the struggle will be even greater for my daughters and my granddaughters. I cannot give them the example of ending it even though I am old and my entire life has been struggle. I continue so that they will and possibly find a better future. For me there is none.

  12. My sister recently passed away, from a quick illness. I thought I had gone thru the grieving process. But reading this I acknowledge that I am depressed. I’m home recuperating from hip surgery, and I think of her all the time and how much I miss her. We were so close.
    But I’m afraid to let it out, afraid of what will happen. I feel so alone without her to talk to. Although i go thru my daily “things”, it’s like there is no purpose, that it falls on deaf ears/hearts/eyes.

    • So sorry you lost your sister?. My sister has been gone for 9 yrs on 4-29 and I miss her so much. My grief is still so heavy and yes I had to go on depression meds. In the past 9 yrs I have lost my sister, mom,dad,FiL,cousin that was like a sister,only brother and just 2 yrs ago my forever 18 yo son was killed. Let it out and let yourself go through the stages of grief. I was told the first yr you are numb and the second yr is the hardest as the reality that they’re really gone hits. We found that to be true as we all struggled to get through the past 2 yrs. I wish I could tell you it gets better-it doesn’t,but you just learn how to live without them. Prayers for some peace and comfort for you.

  13. This spoke to me so strong and urgently. Thank you for these amazing words that help me feel that I’ll be ok. That I’m not alone in struggling.

    • This article is very helpful. I love ready these articles, and read them like a ravenous wolf seeks after meat.
      I then post and share, cuz the world needs this pchycological food.

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