Guest Post: Why I Say I’m Okay

Arwyn lives in the United States’ Pacific Northwest with The Man, the Boychick, bipolar type 2, and migraines. When the intersection of her neurology and the kyriarchal society she lives in allows, she writes feminist thoughts inspired by parenting a presumably-straight white probably-male at Raising My Boychick.

Arwyn previously wrote a guest post for us: Why I didn’t celebrate World Mental Health Day.

I am a very out person about my mood disorder. I wrote about it and talked about it in all my college applications and interviews; I mention it to everyone I know whenever relevant (and it often is); it’s in my bio here and on most social networking sites. I am an advocate for openness, for honesty, for forthrightness, for being out and proud as a person with a “mental illness.”

And yet, if you ask me how I am on any given day — even today, even when my sanity and stability are more potential and historical than current and actual –, I’ll probably say I’m OK. If you’re close to me, I might also tell you what’s going on today; if you know my mood history, I might tell you how else I’ve been feeling recently. But whether with a “more or less” appended to it or not, I will start with, and likely end with, “I’m OK.”

Why?

It is an affirmation; a statement of intention; a prayer to the universe. The more I say it, the more true it is likely to be — and oh do I want it to be. I need it to be.

It is a philosophical statement. Fundamentally, I am OK. I am privileged to have a comparatively easy life, with an understanding partner, a beautiful shining child, and the resources to do most of the things I need to do to be OK in the long run.

It is a temporal anomaly. I live in the moment; most of the time, I try to remember that, and it is especially important to do so when I my mood has not been stable. When you ask how I am, if you are worthy of an honest answer, I take a deep breath, center myself, and probably find that in this moment, I am OK. Stable? Not so much, but stability is a product of well-being over time: in the now when you ask me, I am OK (if you are a person who cares about me, you asking and caring about the answer may be enough for me to be OK in that moment). Now is all I ever have; now’s okayness may be the only answer you will get.

And, it is protection. I do not always have the spoons to let my mask down, to let you in — even if you love me and I love you –, to get into all the ways I might not be completely OK. Answering any other way might make me not OK, and frankly I’m tired of being unwell — bone-deep, wish-I-could-weep, wanna-sleep-until-it-goes-away-for-keeps tired of it.

None of these should give you the feeling you have any right to a different answer; none of these should leave you thinking “I should just push harder, she’ll let her guard down and admit her damage if I just say ‘really?’ skeptically enough.” I will tell you I might answer differently to “how’ve you been?” or “how’s life going?” or “how has that blighter bipolar been treating you today?” But I might not.

I have the right to be OK; you do not have the right to demand the laundry list of all the ways I’ve fucked up today. Talk with me: I’m an open kind of gal, and if I’m up to it and you’re open to it, odds are good you’ll eventually hear all about what’s been going on with me. But if we’ve just started talking, and you ask how I am? If you love me, if you purport to care about me at all, let me say I’m OK, and let that be enough for you.

By 27 October, 2009.    guest post   



10 Comments

  1. It is an affirmation; a statement of intention; a prayer to the universe. The more I say it, the more true it is likely to be — and oh do I want it to be. I need it to be.

    This is pretty much exactly why I say “I’m okay.” It’s hard for my partner to understand sometimes, and he does sometimes do that thing of asking me sceptically “Really?” but I think his heart’s in the right place – he wants me to know that if I’m not really OK, I can talk to him about it. If I answer his “Really?” with “yes” then he leaves it.
    .-= Anji´s last blog ..Blogrollin’ =-.

  2. That spoons analogy is brilliant. My partner is often in the same situation, not really wanting to go into it about their fibromalygia (which may actually be Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), their trigger finger, their schizotypal disorder.

    Although what they do is when people ask them if they’re OK, they go, “define OK”. When I was struggling with depression from abuse and depression from gender dysphoria, I always said, “depends on what you mean by OK”.

    I don’t really delve, when they say that. Because I always feel like pushing just makes things worse. And now I have a better idea of why. Thank you.
    .-= recursiveparadox´s last blog ..We Are Not Spared: The Shapes And Sizes Shame Game. =-.

  3. This applies to chronic illness of a more physical sort, as well. I’m okay, I’m not dead yet, I’m still capable of doing what I need to do (more or less) and the pain is tolerable (if only barely).

    I’m okay.

    Quite frankly, I spend way too much of my time thinking about my physical troubles and the troubles that my troubles cause, too much time having to talk about it all (to 4 different doctors), with you I wish only to be okay.

    Unless I don’t want to, which is entirely up to me.
    .-= Personal Failure´s last blog ..Call Me When They Bring Back the Lions =-.

  4. Oh, how I know this one. And how many times I’ve explained that “I’m okay” does not mean “I’m not in pain/not depressed/all better now!” to disappointed faces. Okay means… okay. I’m getting by, it’s not so awful I want it to stop and I don’t care how, I don’t want to talk about it right now and not with you.

    That last you doesn’t refer to anyone here, I should add. I talk to people who aren’t present. That you is mostly people I work with (who don’t need to know) and people I’m related to (who use information against me).

  5. Not only can you be okay, you can be in a good mood and laugh. And still be sick. It’s weird that way.

    My doctor has yet to get this. However, he’s pretty good in other ways. Just, think for a second before you jump – “Oh, you’re laughing *right now* so you haven’t had any problems for the past whatever time period.”
    .-= Kaitlyn´s last blog .."Correspondence From Senator Alexander" =-.

  6. I sometimes say I’m OK, and sometimes it means “I’m OK” and sometimes it means “I don’t want to discuss why I’m not OK with you”. But sometimes, people don’t get that.

    In some cultures, it’s the norm to say “fine” when someone asks how are you or your mum/sister/whoever. Anything that might not be OK comes later.

  7. I have a million well-worn and tried-and-true euphemisms I use when I’m not sure how “bipolar disorder” is going to sound when mentioned to random strangers. Sometimes I find myself almost believing in them myself, though I hope for the day when I don’t have to go to the trouble.
    .-= Comrade Kevin´s last blog ..The Parallel Universes of Politics and Popular Sentiment =-.

  8. Thanks so much for writing this. I live with an invisible disability that presents primarily as physical symptoms but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have emotional issues layered on top of what’s going on with me physically. There are days when I *need* to tell myself that I’m “okay.” Or at the very least believe that I will be “okay” again one of these days. (“This too shall pass”)

    As an alternative, some days I answer the question, “How are you?” with the phrase, “Could be worse!” (said with a smile) Because, really, things could always be worse. But I can only do that on days when my physical symptoms may be bad but my emotions are pretty well under control. It’s tough to pull off when I’m feeling fragile emotionally.

  9. I sometimes like to say I’m fine, while reminding myself in my head that it can stand for “Frantic, Insane, Neurotic and Emotional”.