September 10 2015 is R U Ok day.
It is a day set aside to raise awareness worldwide about how important a conversation could be in helping to prevent suicide. R U Ok day started in 2009 in Australia and is focussed around how important making connections with others can be in helping someone to reach out and get help.
If I am totally honest I am not sure that I would ever have anserwed the question with a no, but partly this was because I really thought I was doing ok. I figured if I wasn't rocking in a corner and could still basically function then I must be ok and let's face it I had absolutely no rational reason to not be ok.
Thing is mental illness doesn't work like that, it doesn't discriminate, it isn't rational, and it actually has very little to do whether we think we should be ok or not. What I have discovered is that regardless of how hard you try you simply can't think yourself happy and that constant worry and fear that something will happen to someone you love just doesn't go away because you want it to. When you are not ok some of the feelings you can have are pain, emptiness, loneliness, fear, panic, anger, guilt, sadness like you have never felt before and more. I find it really hard even now to put into words how I am feeling; I will often say I am ok or fine because finding other words to describe how I am really feeling is just simply too hard.
Typically with all the feelings listed above come physical issues of constant fatigue and headaches and these just add to everything else. I felt like I simply didn't want to burden anyone else's busy life with my petty problems so I found it easier to be the person that other's would turn to mainly because this would take the focus in my brain off myself onto something else.
Equally then and even now it isn't for me ever about actually wanting to die as much as it is about wanting to end the pain or to go somewhere where I can no longer feel anything. Of course when you have depression you are incredibly sad and just want everything to either end, but then when you are also dealing with anxiety you live in a constant state of heightened awareness and are hyper vigilant about everything especially about dying and/or your loved ones dying and you not being there to guide them through life and to be there when they grow up. So truly in many cases that desire to die is not actually about wanting to die in as much as you just want the pain to end.
I thought that as this is something that I am living with at the moment and has always been something that means a lot to me I would put together a little tip sheet on how to ask R U Ok.
Here are 4 basic steps to think about:
1. Before you ask the question make sure that you are in the right headspace for an honest answer; make sure that you have time to listen; and most importantly make sure you really care and are willing to walk alongside someone if they do open up to you.
2. Sometimes it is entirely possible that someone might pour out their soul to you and this might include things that you don't want to know or that could change your opinion of the person or even they may have done things that go against your moral code (and quite possibly theirs). Remember that they are sick and now is not the time for jugdement, they will need your support more than anything right now so if you don't think you can do this perhaps re-think asking the question. But if you think you can ask and listen with no judgement make sure they know that whatever they tell you is in confidence it takes a lot for someone to open up, this is never easy regardless of how obvious it might be to everyone else they are not ok.
3. If when you ask the question you do get an honest answer and it is as you suspected they are not ok, you will not be their answer. They will need your love and support but most importantly they will need professional help. This might be talk therapy, it may be medication, it may be lots of other things but you will not be the answer, you will be part of the solution but more than anything encourage them to get professional help. Let them know you will be there for them and will go with them if needed.
4. Lastly, once you have started the conversation, the time might not have been right for them to completely open up to you or perhaps the question prompted them to think that you could be the person they can open up to. So make sure you follow up with them, opening up to someone is can leave someone feeling extremely vulnerable so keeping in touch is very important.
Lastly if you are not doing ok and you are reading this and feel you have nowhere to turn here are some places in Australia to at least start the conversation. Remember you are not alone!
Hey everyone, I'm Cathy and no I'm not ok but I know this now and with lots of love, support and professional help I will get there
Images from ruok.org.au