Are you OK? – I mean, ARE YOU? REALLY?

It’s RUOK day in Australia, (11 Sept) a brilliant initiative around suicide prevention. I say in Australia, because it doesn’t seem to reach here in the UK, except via the Facebook posts of the Aussie friends and relatives I have.

I absolutely applaud the initiative and I am sure it has made inroads into the public recognition of things like depression and bullying that lead to suicide.

If we only ask this one day per year then it is a start.

How to Ask.....
Are you really?

It takes a brave person to say that they aren’t OK actually. People who are depressed or leading a terrible life fighting their own demons, or other people’s demons, sometimes won’t say what is really going on for them. Are you OK is a great start. But what if they say yes and they aren’t?

How many times do we get asked Are you OK and we answer, “yes, fine thanks”? In fact there is a plethora of “funny” jokes all over the interwebs about how women are asked this often and they send a chilly “I’m fine” response back! Oh yes, I laugh until I stop when I see these and that’s a short journey…..anyhow I digress.

The thing is – we aren’t usually OK all the time. And that’s OK. The more we get used to hearing that people are not OK – that they might be struggling a bit, that they are tired, or run down, or they have had an emotional day crying on the couch, the more we will realise that life is actually like that.

I think what we could all do with some more of is learning what to do when people do actually say, No – I’m not OK. We can’t always know what people are going through. Sometimes, we don’t even know how much people mean to us until we lose them. That’s what happens in a world where we feel like we can’t get too close to other people, where making friends is hard, where just wanting some “me” time comes before being with friends and family.

A friend of mine recently lost a friend to suicide. She feels eternally guilty that she didn’t see what was coming. Of course she asked if she was OK – and the response she got back was, yes. It’s tough, but I am OK.

We don’t always know when we aren’t OK, as weird as that sounds. Sometimes it takes someone to nudge us a bit and not only ask if we are OK, but to ask some more questions. Perhaps remind them on some behaviour we may have noticed.

This world sees most of other people’s lives through social media eyes, via our computers and mostly through our phones (wankers flashlights as I heard them recently referred to). Am I going to post on Facebook that I am not OK? No way. I don’t want sympathy, or I don’t want platitudes from people who say they are “here for you” and who aren’t. I probably want to be alone with my demons. As awful as they are, they are mine and parting ways with them takes time and guts and courage. I am fortunate enough to have people close to me who do recognise when I am not OK, but not all of us do.

Perhaps what we can say to friends is to not just ask the question Are you OK, but to tell them it’s OK to not be OK just for now. That things will change and life can get better, or we can work on changing our thoughts to make the most of a shitty situation. And then as the website suggests, start a conversation. Ask, Listen, Encourage, Follow Up. Simple steps that could make a difference.

It takes a brave person to say they are not OK, and it takes a true friend and an even braver person to keep that conversation going.

Disclaimer: I’m not a pyschotherapist, nor a mental health professional. I’m just a normal person who is sometimes not OK. (And thank the gods, this isn’t one of those times if you are wondering – I am perfectly OK and I mean it! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Are you OK? – I mean, ARE YOU? REALLY?

  1. I’m so glad that you get it. You see what others don’t. I live with and am married to a wonderful man that I love very much but he suffers every day. There are triggers that set him off and we, as a family, live with that. Most of the time it’s okay and then something goes wrong and the walls close in on all of us. We cry a lot, patch up the holes and then wait for the next time! Asking the question ‘Are YOU ok?’ is so important for us each and every day. We are blessed with a few friends that keep the conversation going, those that do notice the changes and know when help is needed. Social media can sometimes be a real enemy to those suffering from depression, as it was for us last week. ‘Things will change and life will get better and we will make the best of shitty situations’ to plagiarise you! I am so glad that there are others that understand what we go through each and every day. Thank you for writing this blog. I hope it reaches the audience you want to reach.

    1. Wow, what a powerful response Robyn. Your words say more than I could ever do in my blog. I don’t live with this as you have articulated so beautifully. It takes strategy to manage life like this and it sounds like you have yours in your strong family unit. I so hear you on the social media and depression front, it is in the news so often with bullying online, but there are so many other ways for it to have an impact on even the soundest mind. It’s so ironic that we seem to live in such nurturing times, and such harsh cruel times. We have to apply the filters we learn to keep ourselves and our loved ones sane. All the words I want to say sound like platitudes – the you are not alones, etc… Sadly, on the days when it is awful, you are very bloody alone because who else would you trust enough to share those deepest darkest moments? You have the love to see you through and I think that is so important. Thanks so much for sharing your words.

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