“It’s ok not to be ok”
The most well known quote when it comes to all things mental health. We’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it to each other.
However…..are we REALLY allowed to feel like that? Are we able to show our weaknesses to our friends and family? Especially when, like me, you are usually the strong one for everyone else?
It seems to scare people if I merely mention that I’m not in a good place. If I claim to be struggling, I get told I’ll get through it even when I feel like I can’t, that I won’t.
Now it’s important to point out, as I have done on so many occasions, that I have not been diagnosed with a mental health issue. Nor do I feel I need medication to control or ease me. My mental health is extremely delicate though. Perhaps that’s why people just “won’t get it” if I were to I say I’m not ok. I don’t have “something”. There’s no diagnosis and therefore there’s no treatment. So, I’m fine, right? And if I’m not, I soon will be, right?
I don’t mind saying, I AM a strong person. The last 6 years have been the toughest for my family, yet I still get up, eat, go to work. Every so often, it just all gets too much, and while I’m still doing all those things, they are harder, and take way more effort.
Here’s the problem with situations like this. I, like so many others, will not openly say , “you know what, no, I’m not ok”.
I don’t expect people to suddenly become mind readers. If I’ve put on the brave face, I like to think I’ve done a good job at convincing people that I’m fine. In a previous blog I’ve spoken about how I don’t necessarily want to talk about what it is that I’m struggling with, more that I need distraction so that I don’t over think and let it eat away at me. And I guess I want people to figure that out for themselves without me saying that.
I know I’m not alone.
We are embarrassed to ask anyone for help or a distraction. It’s like admitting we’re a fraud. The strong one isn’t so strong after all. We enjoy being strong for our loved ones, we can’t possibly let them see our weakness.
I’ve been prompted to write this since the death of TV celebrity Caroline Flack, although I have covered this topic several times in different ways, it’s a message I’ve been trying to get out there for so long. I’m hoping this one reaches a few more people and at least makes you think.
On screen, Caroline Flack had it all. She was undeniably beautiful. Her laugh was cheeky and infectious. She was friends with other celebrities. Love them or hate them, she was associated with some of the most popular shows on TV. Chances are she had the money to seek professional help for any and all problems she might’ve had.
Despite all that, she chose suicide. She got so low she saw no other option. How the hell did the world get like that? It wasn’t ok for Caroline to publicly admit that she wasn’t ok. She would’ve been judged, maybe even doubted.
Caroline got herself into a bit of trouble in her private life, something that happens most likely daily across the country. Something we will never know the full extent of, the details of or the reasons for, so how can we and the media become judge, jury and executioner? What gave anyone the right to make assumptions and accusations about her?
“She was a celebrity”.
No, she was human.
The press and the internet trolls were relentless with their abuse of her, and no-one gave a thought to how it would affect her. Due to all the reasons I’ve listed above, everyone assumed she’d have the help and support system around her, that it wouldn’t bother her because she’s put herself in the public eye. She chose that lifestyle.
Mental health doesn’t choose its victims. Mental health doesn’t care if you’re rich, poor, married, single, male or female.
The agonising abuse Caroline received throughout Christmas and New Year would be a lot for even the strongest of people to turn a blind eye to. Try pouring that onto someone who isn’t strong, someone who paints a smile on their face just so that they can get through the day doing something they love, in Carolines case, presenting. She was already fragile it transpires, before the attacks on her in the papers and online. Her relationship came under scrutiny, and her job was in jeopardy.
The words being printed about her became too much and the only option she saw was to take her own life. Just imagine feeling that low? She couldn’t ask for help, maybe she felt she didn’t deserve it. I have read so many posts from her celebrity friends that prove that, had she been strong enough to ask for help, it would’ve been there in abundance. Perhaps she thought seeking that help would show a weakness that she didn’t want the blood thirsty media to see. More ammo for their weapons. She couldn’t admit to not being ok. Despite the opening phrase “it’s ok not to be ok”, and the overall awareness of mental health, she still didn’t feel she could reach out.
For me, there are two elements to this.
1) Your words can hurt. Your words can kill. Think before you speak and be more kind.
2) It shouldn’t be an embarrassment or a sign of weakness to ask for help.
So, element number one. We are all human. We are all the same species. Some have thicker skins than others but each and every one of us has a trigger, something that gets to us. Our state of mind could be affected by illness of a loved one, complications at work, problems in a relationship, any number of things. Having those thoughts on your mind can change the way you react to things, words said to or about you. All your emotional defences are poured into what is going on that you are literally left wide open to ill times comments. This is my point, we just don’t know what is going on in someone’s head. Smile or not, they could be just getting by.
An abusive comment can wash right over some people, but could sink deep down under the skin and play on the mind of others. Unless we all wear badges indicating the state of our mental health, you have absolutely no idea what your words will do to someone on any given day.
Some days I’m stronger than others, and even I don’t know which way I’ll wake up the next day. I was always taught if you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. A sentiment I wish more people would follow.
I have had slanderous comments made about me, a smear campaign, and I struggled with the fact a whole town of people I’ll probably never meet think I’m the worst person to walk this earth. I’ve cried over it, I’ve lost sleep over it, I’ve had no control over it whatsoever and it really got to me. It was a situation that could’ve been lethal if inflicted on someone that hasn’t got the strength I found to eventually turn a blind eye to it. It was deformation of character and utterly soul destroying. Some of the comments I read about myself hurt like the proverbial knife in the back. Lies I couldn’t defend myself against, accusations of actions I wasn’t allowed to explain or justify. So much so, I know I would never make a nasty comment about someone I didn’t know on a platform that can be seen by that person and their family and friends. I’m not perfect, I gossip amongst friends and share opinions on celebrity news, but I don’t take to social media to run them down. It’s happened to me. I am living proof that no matter what speculation is out there, there’s always a different perspective. And you most certainly do not know the mental state of the person you are trolling.
Element number two.
The human race needs to do more to eradicate the stigma attached to admitting you are struggling. The last century has brought mental health awareness to everyone’s attention. Everyone is aware of the many complex ways some people suffer. Yet still it’s so hard for those suffering to admit it. For every singer who uses their voice to sing about it and deliver the message of “Its ok not to be ok”, there’s someone else out there suffering in silence because, well, their friends always go to them for advice so, they can’t possibly say they need help. I think we have such a fear of being labelled a fraud because we smile, laugh and go about our day jobs like everyone else. The life and soul of the party is just a bit grumpy today, they can’t possibly have anxiety, or depression, or be stressed.
I told people about the tough time I went through, and I had support, but I could never admit that mentally I struggled with it all. It played on my mind all day every day. But I didn’t reveal that, because I didn’t think anyone would understand. I didn’t even know what I needed to do to help myself, how the hell could anyone else know. If I was a weaker person, it could’ve consumed me, as it did with Caroline. Those suffering should be able to speak up without the fear of feeling like a failure. If we are all just a little more mindful that someone could be going through something at any time, we could put our words, thoughts and opinions to good use for a change.
Something needs to change.
The root of that change is US.
Be more understanding. You never know what the person you stand next to is going through. You never know who will be reading your words next time you write a bitchy comment.
Focus on yourself and your loved ones. You don’t need to waste time typing a cutting comment on the latest celebrity gossip pages.
You wouldn’t want abuse thrown at your friends if they made a mistake, so why is it acceptable to do it to celebrities, strangers? There are several celebrities that grate on my nerves, so I just don’t go on their social media pages or read news articles about them. I scroll on by, I don’t make a point of telling the world and his dog why I don’t like that particular celebrity. I read newspaper articles that I disagree with, but don’t target the person the story is about.
Mental Health issues are real, they are recognised and accepted. You may never know who suffers and at what degree, as we never will wear those badges.
The only way forward is to acknowledge and understand that everyone has a trigger point, and everyone will have a limit as to how much that trigger point can be pushed.
I’m not saying no-one should ever talk about someone else, although if the nasty words were never there in the first place it’d be easier, I know that’s an impossible task to achieve as we like to gossip and speculate. I’m saying we should stop going out of our way to comment negatively on a public platform. Surely the human race has better things to do with its time. Do those that troll online make as much effort to pay compliments to celebrities and strangers? Pretty sure the answer to that is no.
The only things we know about a celebrity is what they and the media put out there. Our opinions and thoughts on their lives are irrelevant, yet can cause so much pain and suffering as in Carolines case.
The only things we know about strangers are the things that they outwardly choose to show to the world. Our opinions and thoughts about how they look or act should be kept to ourselves.
The only things we know about those closest to us are what they are willing to share with us. Our opinions and thoughts will only help if we are willing to try and understand what the person needs from us. These are the ones we should be helping. Our time should be focused on our immediate circle, strangers and celebrities don’t need to hear what we think of them. The more open we all become, the more willing they will be to share and ask for help.
Words are powerful and can have a huge impact on someone, sometimes for good, but often for bad.
Keep your conscience clear by keeping out of things that don’t affect you, and being more mindful of what those around you, the ones you love and care about, need from you.
Be aware, but most of all, be kind.