It’s OK to not be OK

Recently I attended a fantastic conference on Mental Health with around 200 delegates and speakers from Australia, NZ and Hawaii.

One of the speakers said something that made me first of all write it down, second of all to give it some thought. She said we need to all understand and accept that “it’s ok to not be ok”.

At first it sounds like a contradiction; if it’s not ok, then it’s not ok right? But when I thought about it a bit more in the context of where she was heading, I realised that what she was saying, was that having a mental health problem is ok. It’s not good, but it is a legitimate human experience.

We need to accept that depression, anxiety and a host of mental problems are part of the human experience. When we do that, we are able to give dignity and respect to sufferers. We treat them just like anyone else.

Understanding that it’s ok to not be ok helps me to be ok about having a condition and instead of putting my energies into fighting the fact that I have depression I put my energy into recovery. It’s also important for non-sufferers to understand because it deals with the stigma.

Stigma prevents people from getting treatment. It prevents sufferers from getting the support they need from the people around them. It shuts down conversations that need to take place. None of my “well” friends ever ask about my mental health, because they just don’t know what to say.

And in saying that it’s ok to not be ok, it doesn’t ever mean depression is good. It’s bad. It’s an illness to be recovered from that will afflict one in five people at any given point in time.

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2 Responses

  1. That saying, “It’s OK not to be OK,” reminded me of a book my wife was reading and relating to me during a hospital stay as a patient. She said it was about a group of folks in a psychiatric hospital in Japan who, through the inspiration of the director of the hospital, started celebrating their “diversity” rather than consider each individual illness a handicap. The book, written in Japanese, basically recounted how the different people with different physical or emotional conditions started relating to each other as if each one was from a different culture (or planet), seeing and expressing the world in completely different ways, and celebrating it together. With this view, there was a strong sense of community and every one of them accepted their “illness” but actually became quite happy living with each other!
    I wonder how someone in that living situation, who suffered from anxiety and depression, actually felt good living in and supported by that community? How can that seeming contradiction possibly be expressed?

  2. That’s an amazing example of how people can learn to live with their conditions and still be celebrated as an individual. Some mental illness (e.g. bi-polar, multiple personality disorder etc.) can’t be cured, so it means the individual has to adapt and build a life around it.

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