Learning to Say, “I am NOT OK.”

It’s R U OK Day here in Australia. I have mixed feelings about this day. I think it is a really good way of getting messaging out there about mental health and having a quiet concern for others.

But at the same time, I remember being asked that question and answering with a smile on my face, “I am ok”. Even though I wasn’t. Even though I was FAR from ok. I remember being asked that question and thinking, “No-one is going to believe I am actually NOT ok. Look at my perfect life, with my perfect family and my perfect husband and perfect loving mothers. Look at my perfect career and my perfectly lovely house and the perfect brilliance of my perfectly broken brain.”

Smoke and Mirrors
Smoke and Mirrors by Mangrovejane

I was mouthing the Words, “I am ok”, and yet screaming inside, “I’M NOT OK I’M NOT OK I’M NOT OK. LOOK PAST MY PERFECT SMILE AND SEE THAT I…AM…NOT…OK”. I thought I was going to break into a thousand tiny little perfect pieces and people would coo and smile and nod their heads in perfect unison and say, “What an incredibly perfect art piece you have made there. Look at the way the light falls on those pieces. Look at the abstraction. Look at that raw emotion.”

Then they would leave, while my pieces lying imperfectly on the ground murmured…

“But…I’m not ok….”

You are not a Writer2 WordPressfeatured image 1800x800 20190513_001
“You are not a writer”, by Mangrovejane

It was a perfect scenario to keep me perfectly locked inside my own head. To keep the perfect smile and the perfect answers. To nod my head with the other perfect people and ask the perfect question, listening with just the perfect amount of sympathy as they all explained that they too…just like me…were all ok.

Social anxiety by Mangrovejane

I remember the moment I broke through the perfect barrier and yelled in desperation, “PLEASE HELP ME. I’M NOT OK. I’M AFRAID OF THIS PERFECTION AND I’M LOST IN THE MADNESS AND I CAN’T GET OUT.” And that was the moment the perfection took a step back, as if shocked that I would dare mention its name and expose it. I started saying it more.

I said it to the doctor, “I’m not ok.”

I said it to my children, “I’m not ok.”

I said it to the clinical psychologist I was sent to, “I’m not ok.”

And then I said it to my friends, “I’m not ok.”

I would walk into the psych office and cry. I felt like I would never stop crying. That I would always be broken and raw and imperfect now. At first, I felt like I was the only imperfect person in a perfect world and I would never be able to step back in to that world and be whole and perfect again.

But…The more I said it…

“I’m not ok.”

the more those perfect people whispered it back to me…

“I’m not ok too.”

“Hey! Guess what? I was never ok.”

“I don’t really understand what ok is.”

“I’m a very long way from ok.”

And I saw them strip away their perfect skins and we stood…imperfectly together and apart. We were not perfect. And we were not ok. We may never get perfect back. But I know this…

I am WAY closer to ok now than I was when I was perfect.

So when you are ready…and when you most need it…remember this…

When someone asks, “R U Ok?”, it’s GOING to be ok if you tell them, “I’m NOT OK.”

It will take you some time. It’s going to take a lot of work and probably a lot of crying and being angry and understanding why you are crying and angry.

But one day, you will look back and see all those perfect skins left behind us and realise the day you learned to say, “I’m not ok.” was the day you found a way to be OK.


Groves by Cassandra Middles


The following resources are important. If you or anyone you know are having mental health issues please consider taking a moment and checking them out. Can’t hurt more right?

R U OK Day website https://www.ruok.org.au/
Beyond Blue website https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Kids Helpline https://kidshelpline.com.au/

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