To be OK or not to be OK?

So often I find I get asked “How are you?” or “Are you ok?” and I’ll mostly just automatically respond with “I’m fine” or “I’m OK.”. And today I found myself asking….why? Why am I so afraid just to answer honestly? Is it a fear of being judged? That that person won’t want to talk to me anymore? That they won’t understand? Or maybe it’s all 3.

When you’re struggling with depression this way of thinking can easily become a vicious circle. You need your friends and family around you and people to talk to but your natural impulse is just to shut out those who care. It becomes easier to respond to an inquisitive text with “I’m OK, how are you?” rather than “Actually I’m really struggling today and could use a friend to talk to.”. Because if you answer honestly then you have to explain your feelings and why you have them. And, if you’re anything like me, you often won’t know why. You could literally tie yourself into knots trying to explain it and yet the recipient of your explanation would still be none the wiser.

So you stay schtum. Then you end up feeling lonely because you feel like you have no one you can talk to, no one who understands. You end up isolated, avoiding friends and you get consumed by the black hole that is Depression. This is what happened to me. Except I tried to bury my feelings and convince myself that I was ok. And this went on for a long time until it became plainly obvious to me, and those close to me, that I wasn’t ok. Which was when I sought help.

But maybe if I’d felt able to say something other than “I’m OK” when people had asked me how I was then, who knows, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so bad? Maybe I’d have gotten help sooner? Maybe if more people felt able to answer honestly there’s be lower suicide rates as people would be getting the support they need? I think it comes down to a huge need to break the stigma that surrounds all mental health. Sufferers should feel able to talk without fear of getting labelled negatively, judged or discriminated against.

That was my little bit of food for thought for today. So next time you talk to a friend who’s willing to open up about their mental health, just listen and be supportive, because, that day, you could just save their life. Not always literally but even figuratively as, just having someone caring to talk to, really can make all the difference.