While any attempt to get us to face up to our mental health issues and enable more open, helpful and supportive conversations and actions to take place should be, and is, welcomed, there is something at the heart of this campaign that will ultimately see it fail.
Quite simply it is the idea that those of us that are depressed, bipolar, suffering from anxiety or eating disorders (to name just a few) or are just not at ease with society’s expectations are somehow “NOT OK.” Of course, we are told we should not feel any shame in that by the same people who are telling us we are “NOT OK.” It is this judgement (flawed, insensitive and self serving as it is) that is so contradictory. It does not ring true (albeit often not acknowledged) for people who wish to see more done in the mental health arena and does not ring through for those suffering in this area.
When we see people who suffer from anxiety or depression brought on by childhood abuse in the very place they should have been safest being told “It’s OK not to be OK” while they see the perpetrators (often literally) walk the streets freely can we blame them for feeling they are the ones having the acceptable response; an inability and unease functioning in a society which largely abandoned them and continues to label them as not OK.
When we see people unable to handle the idea of working for 35 years to pay off a mortgage around twice the sum they borrowed (which was created out of nothing in the first place) and therefore uncertain of where they fit in the world being told it’s OK not to be OK can we really be surprised if they are wondering are they the “sane” ones.
When we see people who experience huge highs and lows being medicated to feel neither and therefore miss out on both the enormous creativity and the lessons that are trying to break through can we not see that maybe in their difficulties there is enormous beauty and ultimately peace for them if we could only support them through it.
Can we not see we are labelling all these and more as NOT OK because we don’t want to accept that maybe, just maybe, their difficulty and unease with society says more about society than it does about them?
It is the contraction and the self preservation within the phrase that most bothers me – Society is OK and if you’re not OK then that is about you and not Society. We will help you. Not to discover or actually be yourself but just enough to stop you holding the mirror up to us. This is why it is doomed to failure. It is not authentic; it is a band aid on a fractured leg, a leg that needs carefully and compassionately to be re-broken and reset.
Perhaps we should deal with the concept that these people are not broken. There is nothing wrong with them; they are having deep experiences that are often difficult. They are experiencing authenticity, deep powerful emotions and calls from their soul (however we describe that) that should be acknowledged, observed, communicated with and heard.
Maybe these people are more than OK; maybe we just can’t accept that. Perhaps we should stop the inherent contradiction here and tell people “It’s OK… OK to be you in all your pain, glory and beauty” and we will help you in all that. Perhaps we should honour, celebrate and support where necessary the diversity and humanity in all people instead of judging them.