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.”
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.