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Why it’s NOT okay to not be okay…

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“It’s okay to not be okay” is a phrase that has grown in popularity in these past few years. This relatively new slogan is used in abundance, especially on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

It perhaps started at a time several years ago when not so many people were talking about their mental health. Tens of thousands of people around the world were suffering in silence.

While there are still too many people who attempt to keep their mental health issues to themselves there has certainly been a massive positive shift. This is evident on social media as well as in newspaper and magazine articles, bestselling self-help recovery books, TV programs and the number of celebrities who have opened up about their mental health problem.

This positive shift was completely needed. For years many experts in the mental health field have been saying that mental health should be spoken about in the same way that our physical health issues are – that is with no shame or guilt.

It’s okay to speak about not being okay

There is one theory that everyone has some mental health issue at some time, just that some people hide it more than others. Or hide it totally.

So this slogan is perhaps with well meaning aimed at encouraging people to speak out about anything that is causing them any sort of emotional disturbance. That is excellent in principle.

But perhaps it would be better if it was worded: “It’s okay to speak about not being okay” or  “It’s okay to reach out for help if you’re not okay.”

Otherwise it suggests that actually it is okay to not be okay. But for always?

In physical health terms that would be like saying: it’s okay that your leg is broken, just hobble around in pain for the rest of your life.

So it’s not okay to stay not okay.

In a satisfactory mental state?

“Okay” is generally used to express acceptance. With mental health problems that is the first step: if there is a problem, then in order to move into the solution we have to first accept there is a problem. 

This is why in Step One of the Twelve Steps recovery program that was devised to help alcoholics achieve sobriety it states: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Used as an adjective, okay means “in a satisfactory physical or mental state”. So is it really okay to not be in a state that is not satisfactory?

In fact, as anyone knows who’s suffered or seen the suffering of someone with mental health problems, this state is a world away from being satisfactory. The words that come to mind instead are desperate, terrified, bewildered and in immense pain.

So clearly it is not okay to be like this.

There is always a solution

The number of people with mental health conditions such as depression continues to rise. More people than ever are struggling with anxiety and addictions.

If these horrific emotional states are merely accepted as being okay to stay in without doing anything about them, the stark issue is that suicides and attempted suicide rates will tragically also be much more likely to continue going up.

In some way the word “okay” is simply too bland to take in the utter gut-wrenching torment and terror that takes a stranglehold of someone suffering from such as alcoholism or depression.

This phrase “it’s okay to not be okay” suggests that it’s a condition in which someone has to somehow remain. That is another way of saying there is no solution.

But there is always a solution for any mental health condition. It might need courage, humility, honesty and some determination – but there is a way to find meaning and happiness.

Move into recovery

Millions of people around the world are living proof that painful mental health conditions do not have to be endured for a lifetime. Depression can be fixed and addictions can be beaten.

It is a fact that “it’s okay to not be okay” has undoubtedly given some people glimpses of hope and support, especially if they see it on such as their Twitter timeline. But the mental health conversation needs to swiftly move on from this point.

Social media cannot replace professional support. For a great number of people who are suffering with their mental health on a daily basis, “it’s okay to not be okay” just doesn’t seem urgent or serious enough.

By all means, people need to say “I’m not okay” if they’re struggling. But in the next breath move it on to ask for help.

Finding the right help

If you ask anyone who’s in successful recovery they will tell you the first thing they had to do after realizing and admitting they had a problem was to ask for help. They will most likely tell you that asking for help was the best thing they ever did.

Without asking for help, they would almost certainly still be suffering. As most mental health conditions are progressive, they would almost certainly be in a much worse state.

So asking for help is essential. But it’s also vital to ask someone to help you who knows what they’re talking about.

Our experienced team has years of expertise at treating all types of mental health problems. We offer proven successful treatments that can help anyone in need of recovery and emotional rehabilitation.

At Tikvah Lake Recovery, we work with each guest to ensure their treatment program is completely personalized for their unique needs. This gives us a greater success in treating guests – and in a manner that maintains a strong recovery for you when you leave us.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you or someone you love.

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David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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