Sunday, September 11, 2016

Not today, OK?

I watched RUOK? day rise and fall this year with my usual feeling of discomfort.

It feels like the message has shifted a fair way from where it began. The posts I saw about it spoke of 'reaching out' and 'making contact'. I saw no mention specifically of suicide prevention.

I saw lots of people ask RUOK? in their social media statuses, and I guess some people maybe actually DID directly contact loved ones to ask them if they were okay. No one asked me if I am okay that particular day, so I don't know for sure if that is a thing that happens or if we just post our public update with the best of intentions then feel the job is done.

It's a complex thing, mental health. I admire people and groups who want to raise awareness, to increase understanding of what it can look and feel like, to support people in crisis. But again this year I wondered if this is a great way to do it.

I like that it gives me an easy platform to talk to my kids about mental health I guess, but that's a conversation for every day not just one designated special day.

I watched a dear friend who has and is living through extreme pain, and who has done so in a relatively public way which I admire so so much for many reasons - comment fairly innocently on how RUOK rubs her up the wrong way given that she has been failed spectacularly time and again by the mental health system. The replies she got were astonishing.

It felt a lot like people just could not cope with their views on the organisation/day being questioned - that they were so entitled to their own feeling of virtue having posted the RUOK question, and having claimed to be ready for an honest answer (really? are you?) that they could not stand someone having the audacity to share her own personal experiences which were so out of line with their views of themselves. Instead they took it out on a woman, their supposed friend, who they KNOW has an experience of the system that is so far beyond what many of us will ever experience and which most of us actively hope we never need to. There is something really wrong with that scenario.

I'm not okay at the moment, maybe that's why this has struck me harder than usual this year. Pregnancy hormones mess up my brain chemistry something wicked and as much as I hoped it wouldn't happen this time, it has. I am doing all the right things and I have great support. I WILL BE okay. And if you ask I am going to say 'fine thanks' because I am trying really freaking hard every single day to BE okay in the moment and unless you are my family or my bestie I really hope that what you are seeing IS the 'okay' version of me. You don't want to know the inner dialogue and I don't really want to share it with you and unless you are one of those people there is a good chance you don't really want to hear it either.

Ben Pobjie wrote about this over at Medium and he's summed it up pretty spectacularly I think. 

I'm open to being challenged on this, but not in the way my friend was thanks. We are all entitled to our own opinions based on lived experience and I like a good, positive, awareness raising, community supporting campaign as much as anyone. For me though, RUOK has missed the mark. I have a lot of people in my life who I touch base with often. I am blessed to have a number of people do the same for me. We don't need a day for it though, we need an open conversation about mental health, practical real life support and safe spaces both on and offline every single day.

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