Why I tell you I'm ok when I'm really not

I write this post not only from (or for??) me, but on behalf of many, many others. Some I know really well, some I know just a little and some I have never ever met before and probably never will. But I’m sure most of them well understand (and hopefully appreciate or respect) my writing on their behalf.

Today is R U O K? Day, a brilliant initiative not only aimed at reducing the stigma around suicide, but to get society active and asking those they care about – friends, family, colleagues etc – if they’re ok or not. Because the rates of suicide in this country are appalling; 2000 suicide deaths per year in Australia.

I was nearly one of them. I have three boys, and given males between ages 20 and 34 .. I’m kinda of a little angsty about it. I’ve experienced depression, from mild to severe (to suicidal) and I understand and appreciate the stigma and ignorance and total disrepect for the illness.

This is why I (and many others) say “yeah, I’m ok” when you ask me “Are you ok?)

  • I love you and I don’t want to hurt you
  • I respect you and I don’t want to disappoint you
  • Because I don’t want you to think it’s your fault, to feel responsible or blame yourself … none of it is you
  • I want you to continue to see me as you always have … maybe one day I can be that person, and maybe that person is already inside me, buried deep and wanting to get out
  • I don’t want you to think any less of me
  • Because you say “me too”
  • Beacuse your “me too” is always worse than mine
  • There are children starving in Africa, people dying of cancer and wars going on
  • Because you tell me I’m being silly, irrational and illogical
  • You tell me to stop being so silly, irrational and illogical
  • You tell me I’m selfish
  • You tell me others who have commit suicide are selfish and stupid – why would I confide in you?
  • I hear that depression isn’t a real disease from you
  • You say to just snap out of it, get on with it, get over it
  • You say “awww hugs”
  • I’m only asked if I’m ok when its RUOK? Day … where are you the other days?
  • You tell me you’ll be there, but when I’m not OK, where did you go?
  • You send messages of support … can you please pick up the phone and talk to me?
  • I need you all the time, not just when I’m at my worst … and most dramatic …
  • I love you and I don’t want to disappoint you …

For all these reasons (and probably more) I tell you I’m OK. Sometimes I really am OK, and sometimes I’m not.

I love the RUOK? Day initiative. I love the RUOK? concept.

(Even if it still has a few flaws, mostly generated by the larger society who still have yet to accept the message … but that’s ok)

Today, when you ask someone if they are OK, please don’t do it just because it is RUOK? Day. Please do it because you genuinely care. Because you care about them.

Please keep in mind the reasons (as above) they may say “Yup, I’m doing OK” when, inside, they are dying. Please check out this fabulous resource from the RUOK website – How to start an RUOK conversation

30 Replies to “Why I tell you I'm ok when I'm really not”

  1. …If you cried writing it. I cried reading it. You forgot (or just omitted on purpose..hmmmm) “Because ‘I’m strong and assertive and therefore must be OK. I’m always OK.”

    Last week I asked a friend if she was OK. She said ‘Yes’. She wasn’t. We talked. Your name and the ‘Bad Mother’s Club’ concept came up. We had a laugh. Her voice was heard. Nothing was solved. BUT she is now OK. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for finding the energy to be a leader Amanda, it takes a strong hand to write on behalf of so many women.

  2. *sob* Am now crying again.

    Jac, thank you … just …. thank you.

    Melissa … share, share away! The more the word gets out the better, as far as I’m concerned. Tell those you shared with to share, too 😀

  3. This is a great post. As someone recently wrote to me, it not a competition but we still tend to find excuses to say we’re ok when we’re not because someone may be worse off or through pride not to let others down or fear of being hurt or even of the unknown – if we were to let it our finally, what might happen? We’ve lived with the “normal” for so long it can be hard to consider embracing a new “normal” even if it might be better.

  4. Really apt words, thank you for sharing your experience with us all.

    I think you are so right – people who are truly depressed/suicidal are often very good at hiding that they aren’t ok.

    For me, perhaps the deeper message of RU OK day is not to just use today to ask the question and then forget about it. It’s about being totally supportive and connected to the important people in your life. It’s about not writing them off or telling them to “get over it.”

    I think when you said “I need you all the time, not just when I

  5. Sometimes you don’t even realise you’re not OK until it’s too late, until you don’t really care any more about being OK. Ever. There are times, that I know if someone had asked me, it would have made a difference. But even if they see it in your face, they’re too scared, they don’t want to take on another’s burden.

    These days, I know to speak out. To anyone, anywhere. I don’t care. I know someone will get back to me. Will tweet, or send an email, or post a message on Facebook. And because of that I wait. And because I wait, I get better.

  6. Very well written, totally accurate, you were definitely writing on my behalf too…everyone sees me as strong and successful and able to see the positive in everything, so how could I not be ok? But they see me as having the things in life they want, how could I be depressed and not coping? How dare I not be appreciative of the life I have?
    It’s sometime really hard to know who to trust to open up to, and even with the people you do trust to open up to and be completely honest with, it’s hard to not see it as adding further burdens to their lives. Or they seem the happiest they have been in a while, so you don’t want to bring them down off their high, cos they’ve waited a long time to feel that good, you don’t wanna take that away from them prematurely.
    Thank you for writing this Amanda, from the bottom of my heart xoxo

  7. Thank you for posting – I don’t think i was even 1/4 way through before the tears came think and fast. No, i’m not ok, but to the rest of the world, I am “wonderfully well, thank you for asking”! All lies, but not worth the hassle of saying otherwise.

  8. Aww love it! I had the coversation with others a couple weeks ago as they said “Suicide is so selfish blah blah blah” and I just had to stop them in their tracks because frankly its bull shit. And I totally agree with Dorothy most times you don’t realise you’re spiralling until it’s too late.

    But the more we talk openly and honestly without judgement the better it is…

    Great work babe

    Rx

  9. Well that sure got to the crutch of the issues in my opinion. I always will remember my parents solution to my despair – they brought over a cake? Many people do not understand the raw emotion involved nor do they understand the daily effort involved in *existing* for want of a better word. But hey I have clarity now and I welcome that back with open arms. I have had this clarity in more and more doses over the past year and love that feeling again. Thanks for this blog post it is amazing and heart felt 🙂

  10. When you are the “strong” one – no one really bothers to stop and ask are you ok. Others can publicly fall apart around you and have the support of a million “friends” but when you are the strong one if you fall apart, you are simply being a winger and sometimes – no really, cause Ive been told – a bitch. No one ever thinks the “strong one” is capable of a breakdown. And no one rallys when you do. Because usually as the “strong one” you dont do it in a public manner. You hold it in – you are savagely private about it and you “deal” ( yeh right) with it your own way. And yes – speaking as a “strong one” you dare not ever say – No ..No Im not ok, if you are ever asked that question. They label you “funny farm or medication required” and run as fast as they can. Its very lonely being strong.

  11. Thank you for sharing 🙂 I wish I had the courage and your abiity to convey what you honestly feel with your insightful words. This is how I feel most days and it is easier to say that I’m ok then to try and explain without upsetting others. Hopefully in the future with awareness people will be less embarrassed and have more understanding of how hard it is to, as Michelle said above, “exist” day by day. I never thought it would happen to me as I thought I was invincible, but you guessed it,that “superwoman” doesn’t exist anymore, and in a way I am glad, the expectations of myself were too high. A crash can happen to anyone, anytime and when you least expect it. Time and support can be wonderful healers. Yes, I cried too for you, me and everyone who is suffering in silence. Thank you again 🙂

  12. Oh yes. This post could have had my name on it too. We are good at pretending to be OK, and it is such a shame that this pretence sometimes costs one (or more) of us their life. I am guilty of it, for all the reasons you listed and a few more. Thank you. Honest and beautiful.

  13. This really touched a nerve with me. I totally related to Dorothys first part of her post, as well as Lyndals whole post. From someone who suffers anxiety and depression i felt so isolated. It was set off even more severely by the anxiety attack and depression my teenage son suffered 3 years ago. What a terrible terrible thing to witness what we witness and how we suffered as a family, not one person asked if we were ok. We were isolated and didnt *share* our problems, we are a very private family. Thankfully although he still suffers his anxiety attacks from time to time i recently had him comfort me….and he shared with me how he stops his *bad thoughts* It gives me tremendous hope that he has managed to overcome most of his problems for want of a better word. People couldnt believe that this young handsome popular friendly kid could be on the brink of suicide. I am ever watchful and it is a hard road to walk but never in a million years could i ever had been able to understand mental illness before we had suffered it. I have always had mild anxiety all through my life,,, i am now at a stage in my life where i am learning to deal with it and some things have actually come into play this weekend that has given me huge hope for the future. I have found that is is just to hard to continue being strong and sucking it up princess because work is too hard. I have decided that 1/2 as much money must somehow outway my unhappiness and being that bit free-er to explore time will be so much more beneficial to me than being in a job where i am constantly undermined and being made to feel useless stupid and inept. So it is with a very happy heart that soon i can kiss my job goodbye, start a new one and be able to explore the other options that have been opened to me.
    Sorry, couldnt stop.

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