It’s ok to not be ok
It’s odd to think how such a small and innocuous statement can hide such an ocean of pain and heartache behind it. I’m certain that most people can relate to this scenario. You’ve had an awful day, or week, or month, and someone asks you if you’re ok. A brief pause comes over you as you process how to respond. Do I tell them about the thoughts I’ve been having? The worry…the anxiety…the lying awake at night staring up at the ceiling in confusion and hurt…there’s this odd jumble of thoughts that run through your head when someone tries to peer under the surface. What will they think of you if you tell them everything? Or just a fragment of it? You don’t want to worry them or drive them away. So your answer is simple.
I’ve a fair amount of experience with mental health issues. It’s something I bring up when people want to talk about it. I’d never consider anything I’ve been through to be all that bad. Not compared to other people, who deal with such horror and pain that they can’t even get out of bed in the morning. All the experiences I’ve gone through, and the challenges that have been laid before me, I’m grateful for. They’ve given me the chance to grow and develop, to uncover where my mental standing really was, instead of letting me kid myself into thinking all was well. From suicide to self-harm, eating disorders and appalling days I want out of my head, it’s given me the ability to talk about a lot with people. But still, when people ask “So how are you doing now?”, there’s every chance that I’ll answer with some variation of “I’m fine”.
Why do we do that? Even in a safe and comfortable environment, I still find myself falling back on the thought that “I have to be ok, I have to be strong and alright and healthy and good.” I feel as though it’s a thing a lot of people suffering from similar issues deal with, that until they’re totally broken and defeated, they have to appear to be ok. Because otherwise, they’re broken and defeated. They don’t want to be a burden to anyone, or to appear weak. There’s this sense too of your own issues not being as bad as anyone else’s. Your brain tells you that you shouldn’t feel bad when others are going through things that are infinitely worse. Some people never talk about what they’re going through, others give you a pale glimpse into what they’re truly dealing with. But it always comes back to not wanting to be a burden. To not wanting to drive people away. It comes back to “I’m fine”.
Ultimately, it comes down to a fine balance. No matter how much I talk about being open to people telling me their issues, most people want someone they can absolutely trust. Someone they know and can feel comfortable and secure with. I’m so fortunate to have found those people in my own life in the last 2 months, and it more or less saved me. I knew that people could be supportive, but I’d never had it truly demonstrated until I hit my lowest point. No matter what you’re experiencing, it’s ok to not be ok. Your life is so rich and complex and full of variables that means your brain is so different from anyone elses. What’s happening inside your head is utterly and infallibly unique to you. And it can be dark and scary and chaotic sometimes, but more importantly, it can be beautiful and exotic and awe-inspiring. To the people you feel comfortable enough with, it’s ok to share some of that darkness, they can help in more ways than you could ever know. It’s ok to not be ok. More than that. It’s wonderfully, beautifully, uniquely human.
Which you are. Wonderful. Beautiful. Unique.