R U OK?
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- We would like you to check this out and participate if you
1. Reconnect with someone youve
lost touch with
R U OK? Day
As a bit of background the movement was started in 2009 and is run by R U OK?, an independent, not-for-profit organisation who are committed to preventing suicide through increasing connectedness and communication (About R U OK?).
Personally, Ive had times where it doesnt feel okay to tell anyone how I really am. I havent been able to say that my death would feel like a blessing. Ive been in horrible, horrible mindsets. Ive believed that suicide is the only answer. Now, I know thats not the reality, but once I slip into a depressive state, all rational thinking disappears.
Supporting someone who is struggling with depression, with self-harm, with suicidal ideation, anything can be very hard work. No amount of love for a person makes caring for them any easier. Ive been there too.
Ive been on the other side of the phone sitting with someone who is intensely suicidal, has self-harmed or is having a really difficult time. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of patience, and a lot of love to sit with someone who is struggling so much. I do think it needs to be said that those who find themselves in a carer/helper/supporter role do need to remember to take care of themselves too. Have firm boundaries in place and stick to them. Know when to seek professional help for your friend, family member or loved one.
No words can adequately describe how hard it is to support someone who is unwell . but on the other hand no words can describe the gratitude I have for the people who have supported me through the tough times.
So, to all my readers Are you
okay? If you are awesome. If not, speak up. Tell
someone. Get it out there and let others share the burden
with you. No one has to struggle alone.
Here I am on my thirtieth birthday. I look happy, don't I? And why wouldn't I? My tits were AHHH-MAZING.
The truth is, I had just had a miscarriage and was feeling very fragile.
I was heartbroken, but to the rest of the world, I looked fine.
People are incredibly resilient. We survive many obstacles in a lifetime.
But people are also excellent actors. Shiny, happy exteriors provding the perfect subterfuge for inner turmoil.
The above photo is nothing new. I have been doing this for years.
Bubbly, loud, funny, fun - adjectives used to describe me.
And yet, I have a long history of depression and a slightly less long history of anxiety. Mental illness has prevented me from living fully at different points in my life.
At this particular point, I require anti-depressants in order to be okay.
That is my truth. For now.
Many people have asked me, "Don't you worry about taking those drugs long term? Don't you want to get off them?"*
Yes and yes.
But you know what worries me more? Falling apart in front of my family. Exposing my children to the dangerous lows associated with my untreated depression. Subjecting myself to the terror of unchecked anxiety.
I know what is more important.
In the future, who knows?
But for now, I am so happy that I can answer the question, "R U OK?" with a resounding YES.
So how about you? R U OK?
If the answer is no or maybe you're not sure, know that there is no shame in reaching out. I started with a GP I trusted. Maybe you can, too.
Today is R U OK Day. Check out the website here.
R U OK?
Tomorrow is national R U OK? Day in Australia, which comes in an ironically timely fashion for me; after a few pretty good weeks, Im going through a(nother) nasty little stormy patch right now. It comes and goes so quickly and with SO little warning. If youre a fellow Aussie, you may have also noticed Buddy Franklin in the news over the last day or so, dealing with something similar, with some of his closest family and friends stating that they were unaware of his battle with mental illness. Ahhh to have a dollar every time that phrase was uttered Ohh, I had no idea, you seem so normal! (Im not a bloody alien!) And thats the thing that makes mental illness so deadly; people still dont talk about it because theyre, I dunno, embarrassed about it, feel awkward about it, still believe in the stigmas attached (all because the education isnt there). And so, this horribly isolating, dangerous disease (every single bit as deadly as other serious PHYSICAL illnesses, by the way) goes unnoticed, often until its too late. And thats what R U OK? Day is all about.
If youve never heard of it or seen the logo, in their own words, they are:
a not-for-profit organisation founded by Gavin Larkin in 2009, whose vision is a world where were all connected and are protected from suicide. Accordingly, our mission is to encourage and equip everyone to regularly and meaningfully ask are you OK?
We know that suicide prevention is an enormously complex and sensitive challenge the world over. But we also know that some of the worlds smartest people have been working tirelessly and developed credible theories that suggest theres power in that simplest of questions Are you OK?
Ive written a little about my own struggle with depression, anxiety and disordered eating before on here, but as a general rule, Im not super open with it. Actually, let me re-word that; if Im asked, Im honest. If someone is genuinely asking, from a non-judgmental place, whats going on and wants to know how I feel and where Im at and how I got to that point, I will be open and candid about it. I dont feel shame over it; it is what it is. Some people are affected by diabetes, and they dont have to apologise for it. Some people are coaelic, and thats not their fault. People with Crohns disease or endometriosis or melanoma arent expected to have to defend themselves and the perceived inconvenience their illness is causing for people who dont understand it. This is no different. For whatever reason, the way my brain is wired and the way the chemicals interact up there has caused me to end up with depression. I am not depression, but I do suffer from it. It doesnt define me, but it does affect me.
As for the aspect of it all that R U OK? deal with, suicide, thats not a subject Ive written about before, and Im not certain I ever will. Its a difficult subject to broach; its something that everyone has an opinion on, and those opinions are all very personal and formed from our own experiences. I also tend not to discuss it because, like mental illness full stop, a lot of people out there dont take it seriously. I will post a review on this book next week, because I think its completely necessary reading for every single person who is or knows someone affected by depression (basically everyone on the planet), but in his absolutely brilliant book Reasons To Stay Alive, Matt Haig writes this:
Suicide is now in places including the UK and US a leading cause of death, accounting for over one in a hundred fatalities. According to figures from the World Health Organization, it kills more people than stomach cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, colon cancer, breast cancer and Alzheimers. As people who kill themselves are, more often than not, depressives, depression is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. It kills more people than most other forms of violence warfare, terrorism, domestic abuse, gun crime put together Yet people still dont think depression really is that bad.
Those statistics, I think, really speak for themselves. So, instead of discussing my thoughts on suicide per se, I want to focus on one big thing we can do to prevent it. Its easy enough that anyone can do it, it costs nothing, and it could save a life. Wanna know what this big thing is? Talking.
The theory behind R U OK? is that a simple conversation could be all it could take to save a life. Talking, asking, listening, opening the conversation and therefore taking the stigma and secrecy out of the suffering. Its as simple to affect change as just asking someone are you OK?
How to ask
Like I said, its a difficult subject. Its hard enough to talk about your own feelings of hopelessness, let alone ask someone else about theirs. If theres someone in your life youre worried about and who seems like theyre doing it a bit tough, here are a few ways you can ask them if theyre OK
1. Make time for it: Personally, while I appreciate friends asking me if Im OK, theres nothing worse than being asked at an inappropriate time or place, because then it kinda feels like theyre only asking because they feel like they have to, not because they want to. Ask R U OK? when you have time to stop and listen to the response, not as youre rushing off between appointments. And consider where you are, too the middle of the office or a quiet cafe might not be the best!
2. Let them know youre concerned and dont take no for an answer. Then, just let them talk: After asking are you OK? youll most likely be met with yeah, fine, why? Dont take it at face value if you know this person well, and your gut is telling you theyre not fine, call them on it. Tell them that youre not entirely sure you believe that, and while you may not understand exactly what theyre going through, youd like to try to understand and help where you can. If youre worried, dont let it go. Once youve expressed your concern, then just let them talk. When youre used to keeping it all bottled up and someone actually, genuinely makes the time and effort to ask if youre OK, it takes a little time to express whats going on. Give them a moment to gather their thoughts, and when they do start talking, dont feel the need to jump in and problem solve; sometimes just giving voice to whats been swimming around in your head helps!
3. Let them know its not their fault: People who struggle with mental illnesses of all sorts often feel like its their fault. Like theyve done something wrong to deserve it. One of the most comforting things you do is reassure them that this is not their fault, that yes it is a shitty situation, but its not their fault theyre in it. Depression is a nasty, irrational illness, and it doesnt discriminate who it chooses to shoot down. But no one asks for it.
4. Do NOT say any of the following things, under ANY circumstances:
And in case youre wondering, I speak from personal experience here. Yes, people have said all of those things to me at some point. Some of them have even been said by family members. This is why I dont have a lot of meaningful relationships anymore.
5. Set boundaries: While its very tempting to want to jump straight in to savior mode when a loved one is hurting, thats not necessarily the best thing for either of you. Yes youre their friend or family, yes you care very much, and yes you want to help. But sometimes the best way to help isnt letting them transfer all their problems and hurts on to you. Let them know youd like to help where you can, but make sure youre not doing that at the cost of your own mental health. Offer to go along to a psychologist appointment if they feel like they need the support, or catch up for a weekly coffee and chat, but dont cancel your plans day after day to be checking up on them. Encourage them to find solutions that will work for them rather than trying to do it all for them.
How to answer
This is hard to write, because its very personal and individual. And personally, I hate being asked. Ive been conditioned to shut up and put up, display the shiny, happy veneer to the outside world and deal with the hurt myself. But the older I get, the more I realise I cant keep it up forever.
1. Put yourself in their shoes: If anything, depression makes you even more sensitive to other peoples hurts. A lot of people struggling with depression (myself included) try extra hard to make sure everyone else is doing OK as a way of deflecting our own problems. If you saw a friend who seemed down and out, youd ask them too, so dont get your back up when someone asks you it means youre loved!
2. Dont get defensive: Assuming theyre coming from a place of understanding and love, theyre not accusing you of anything; theyre worried about you. Theyre ready to listen, so you dont need to defend how and what youre feeling. Drop your guard and let them see you, not your mask.
3. Be open to help: It can be hard enough opening up to someone you know and love; its a whole different ball game opening up to a stranger. But you cant use your loved one as a crutch. Asking if youre OK is a way for them to make you realise that youre actually not OK, and for you to become OK is probably going to take a bit of work on your part. Be open to outside help, because its unfair to expect your loved one to solve all your problems for you.
4. Be honest: If youre not OK, say so. If someone cares enough about you to actually ask, the least you can do is be honest. They wouldnt be asking if they couldnt handle it, so tell them whats going on as honestly and openly as you can. Youd be surprised how good it feels to get all the shit thats been building up out of your head and into words. It can also help put things into perspective and give you a new lease on your problems, hearing them out loud instead of having them swim around in your head.
5. Dont be afraid to ask for help: If they care about you, one of the first things theyre going to do is tell you to let them know what they can do to help. You dont offer your best friend help if you dont mean it, so if having someone bring their extra dinner left overs to work for your lunch so you dont have to cook, or picking up your kids from school, or just catching up for an hour over a cup of tea is going to really help you, let them know! Even your closest friends arent mind readers; if they dont know what youre going through, how can you expect them to know what they can do to help??
And lastly, SAY THANK YOU!!! Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone care enough to ask if theyre OK. If someone asks you, thank them.
Tomorrow, lets all put a bit of love out there and start the conversation, because you never know whose life you might be saving all you need to ask is R U OK?
If youre not OK, please consider
seeking help from: National Hopeline
800-273-TALK (8255), Curry County, Oregon Crisis Line
877-519-9322 or TEXT SOS to 741741.
It's ok to say, "I'm not ok.'
A conversation could change a life