Asking If People Are Ok Is Important, But So Is Asking Yourself The Same Thing
Imagine just for a minute that you have a lump on your wrist. First you have to notice this lump. Then, you have to get to a stage where that lump is either bothering you or worrying you enough that you go and get it checked out.
Next comes the appointment with a doctor where hopefully you find out what that lump is. The doctor explains it to you so that you understand, and then you decide what you want to do about this lump, based on the doctor’s recommendations.
Unfortunately, spotting the signs of mental health problems isn’t as obvious as a little lump on the wrist.
Where am I going with this? Good question.
Well, today in Australia it’s R U OK? Day, a day designed to promote awareness around mental health problems, and to encourage people to check in with each other to make sure we’re all doing ok.
This isn’t a post about tossing up whether campaign days like this are a good or bad idea. There are pretty decent arguments on both sides about that.
Really, the message of today is to make sure people feel comfortable telling each other when they’re not ok. And that’s important. But even more so is asking yourself the same question, because you can’t open up to other people if you haven’t opened up to yourself.
I’m not someone who is ashamed about my anxiety or OCD. They aren’t parts of me that I feel I need to hide. In fact, I actually enjoy advocating for more honesty about our experiences, so that we can all understand each other a little bit better.
But sometimes – admittedly, rarely – I don’t feel comfortable telling people about my history with mental health problems if they ask about it. That still comes down to things like stigma, judgment, and stereotypes.
Bleurgh, three of the worst things!
Some people would also argue that asking someone about theirs might actually be triggering, a very fair point.
The thing is, objectively I can see that asking someone if they’re ok is a lovely and sincere thing to do. Especially if you actually mean it! And if you’ve never experienced mental health problems, you might think that asking someone can make a big difference to someone. Which for some people, it can!
But to be able to talk about your problems, you have to have noticed them in the first place.
I got my diagnoses in 2016. It was pretty revelatory. Suddenly I entered a world I didn’t realise I was a part of. I learned about my conditions, went through a ton of therapy, made some lifestyle changes, found medication that works for me, and frankly got a lot better.
Sounds awesome, right? It is, and I’m proud of where I am with it all now. It’s not perfect, but it’s a work in progress, which is far better than where I used to be.
However, that all came after six years of living with sub-par mental health, without even realising it.
I didn’t know about the form of OCD that I got diagnosed with (Pure O). Literally, I didn’t even know it was a thing.
I also hadn’t ever heard about how anxiety affects people, what a panic attack feels like, or the warning signs to look for in yourself.
My life wasn’t too dissimilar from most other middle-class Londoners. I was holding down a job, an active social life, occasional exercise, family time. You know, the usual stuff. But life keeps you busy, right?
Especially thanks to things like Instagram, Spotify, and Candy Crush (is that still a thing?). When we’re not busy living our lives, we’re then busy keeping ourselves busy from living our lives.
That’s a lot of business.
The truth is that days like R U Ok? day are important for no reason less than the fact that people are sharing their stories. The more we tell them, the more people will know about mental health.
But what we need to make sure we do with that information is to then use it to ask ourselves if we are ok. Then, once you too have gotten to a place where you feel comfortable opening up, that’s when you’ll be able to reach out for the help that you need like I did. Whatever that help is for you.
It’s amazing to live in a time where people want to look out for each other. Really, it is. But doesn’t everyone also deserve to look after to themselves too?
(That’s a rhetorical question…The answer is most definitely yes).