Cute isn't it? You might be wondering what that is all about. You might have seen the ads on the television about it and have some idea, but still be wondering why I'd have it on my blog. This post will explain all!
In the past couple of weeks I'd noticed a few people talking about this campaign, especially the lovely Gemma over at My Big Nutshell, so I asked her about it, and she sent me an email outlining the purpose of this campaign: to raise awareness about mental illness and to encourage people to really ask their friends and loved ones, "Are you okay?"
"How are ya?" is one of those classic Aussie phrases most of us hear every day and "Yeah, I'm good" is the most common response. Sometimes people say, "Yeah, I'm good" even when they're not good, out of habit, or because they know it's not really a question so much as a common greeting. Sometimes, people who are not at all okay go unnoticed because no one looks them in the eye, puts a hand on their arm and says with meaning, "Are you okay?"
It can be hard to ask this question. Most of us know from experience at some point, that asking this question can sometimes lead to a flood of tears as the person we ask is prompted to ask themselves "Am I okay?" and suddenly realise - maybe even for the first time - that they are not. That they have been bottling it all up and just getting on with life - keeping busy to avoid facing the gaping hole in their gut that is sucking them dry from the inside out.
I've lived with anxiety and depression for many years. Probably since I was a little girl, maybe even from toddlerhood - I can't remember. I just know that anxiety is normal for me, and depression visits on and off and sometimes stays a while and makes itself at home - and it's a messy houseguest.
It's been a while since depression came to stay, and when I read Gemma's email, I thought - yep, cool, I'll post about the R U OK campaign and encourage people to have meaningful conversations with their family and friends because it might help someone else acknowledge the pain they are living with, I know what that feels like, it used to be me.
Then I let it sit. I blogged about all sorts of other stuff. I was busy. I was so busy I failed to take notice when I cried about not being able to call my dad for Father's Day. I failed to take notice when I cried over submissions to Words on Wednesdays. I failed to take notice when I cried because I found out Blogger stats are flawed and overestimate page views, so my page views were about 40% lower than I had thought - and been excited about - man, you would have thought crying over statistics was BIG CLUE!
Last night I had an anxiety attack because today is free dress day at the boys' school and instead of a gold coin donation, parents were asked to send 4th graders with some kind of cooking related item (apron, cookbook, etc), and preppies with some kind of beauty product (hand lotion, make up, etc). These items had to be unused. As we don't have funds to buy surplus to requirement, we had nothing at home to offer. We also have less than no money until the first week of October (mother-in-law will have to buy food for us next fortnight) so couldn't afford to buy things for this donation drive.
I had an anxiety attack over my kids not being able to participate in free dress day, which led to anxiety about how they don't participate in so much of what their peers do - like computers games - because I have anxiety about their brains not developing properly. Which led to anxiety about the boys future high school which (like so many high schools now) is moving to an IT based teaching system and the boys being leased their own laptops to use at home as well. It felt like we were being forced to let our kids be on computers all day long, and risk their brains not developing properly and when I posted my fears on Twitter, people seemed to react as if I was accusing them of bad parenting and got all defensive. So then I had anxiety about pissing people off and being viewed as overly paranoid as well. Even writing about it now is giving me more anxiety because it feels like I shouldn't be concerned, so then I wonder what's wrong with me that I can't embrace this change happily the way so many other parents do.
Then someone asked, "You okay?"
The flood of tears became a tsunami at that point because it finally, finally dawned on me that I am not okay.
I realised that I feel like an abject failure as a parent, as a wife, as a writer, as a blogger, as a friend, as a daughter. I feel like I struggle to shine and instead I fall flat on my face unable to even get to the starting line of what is considered acceptable.
This has been a long time coming and the reasons are many and very complex, but this is what I know about not being okay and how just being asked that question can open flood gates, but also open doors to that may lead to being okay again.
That is a gift you can give someone today.
If you're experiencing a mental health crisis at the moment
contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
I'm linking up with Yay for home! for "Things I know".