**Trigger warning – LIFELINE 13 11 14**
R U Ok?
Well? How are you really? When was the last time someone actually asked YOU this question? And how do you even begin to answer?
I both love and hate this day.
I think it is an excellent way to start important conversations. I think it is an excellent way to raise awareness of the incredibly diverse nature of mental health states. I think it is an excellent way to actively show your chums compassion and care.
Yes. It is a great day.
I also think the whole day in itself is a massive trigger, and as such massively problematic. Anna says it much better than me here.
Depression. Anxiety. Addiction. Obsession. Fear. Mania. The list goes on… Mental health disorders are prolific. I’m not going to write a literature review of the prevalence, because this is my blog, not my work. Instead I will give a personal account, my thoughts, and finish with a commitment.
This time 8 years ago, one of my best friends suicided. At the time, I wrote about it here. For the record, I want to slap that 28-year-old Jane around for being so blind and selfish.
You see, the thing is, my friend was at the mercy of a severe mental health disorder. She had one goal, and one goal only. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t possibly understand. I knew her for 3 years, and didn’t realise until a year before she died that she struggled with Cyclothemia – which is similar to long-term Bipolar disorder.
So, if on a day like this, 9 years ago, I had happily asked my beautiful friend ‘Are you ok?’ (and feel super proud that I was doing my RUOK Day duty), we might have had a conversation that goes something like this:
27yoJane: Hey, it’s R U Ok day today! R U Ok?
Beautiful friend: mmm, feeling pretty meh today.
27J: Do you want to talk about it? Is there anything particular going on?
BF: Not much to talk about really.
27J: (struggles to understand) I have an idea! How about we plan something to look forward to?! It’s good to look after yourself when you’re feeling down! :D
BF: Yeah, I guess. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to look forward to something…
28J: Hey, maybe you should go and see someone, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, sounds like maybe you might have some mild depression or something?
BF: Yeah, you’re probably right.
28J: Do you want any recommendations? I have quite a few psych friends?
BF: Nah, it’s ok, I’ll just talk to my doctor.
And then the conversation would’ve turned into something else, possibly the event that I wanted to plan, and meanwhile, her mind would be whirling around at top speed that maybe something really was wrong with her. Maybe she did have a broken mind. Why wasn’t she excited about this cool event? Why can’t she just be happy like everyone else? Why can’t she feel something? Anything?! ….
While I believe that it is extremely important to have care and compassion for fellow humans around you, I strongly feel that misplaced RUOK day duty calls are nothing more than triggers for some.
Don’t get me wrong – Of COURSE it’s ok to care. Of COURSE it’s ok to start the conversation.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that there is so much festivity and personal do-gooderiness about a day such as RUOK. That’s the bit about it that I really can’t swallow. Self-congratulation abounds, and all the askers get to feel great because they did GOOD. They asked the question. They are SUPPORTIVE and COMPASSIONATE and all that shit. Meanwhile, the beautiful humans that struggle with how they might answer this question (already dreading being asked it), think about how much this day sucks, and prepare a ‘oh yes, I’m FINE and DANDY’ avoidance script in order to delineate any awkwardness/spontaneous combustion/one way ticket to the institution/tearful reactions on anyone’s part.
Am I going overboard here? Sorry.
Yes, it is wonderful that you care. Ask. But, if you do, be authentic in your interest, ask genuinely and then LISTEN. And then follow-up. And then ask again in a week or two. And then listen again. Etc Etc Ad Infinitum.
One day of care and connection and compassion simply is not enough. Ongoing communities of awareness and support get closer to the mark. Committed compassion for your fellow human every day is what we should aim for.
So that is why today, on R U Ok day 2013, I am making a commitment to asking this question, and giving you my care and compassion, not just today, but every day.
R U Ok?
All the love, J xoxox