I’m not ok.
It’s weird, writing that. Society’s conditioned me to be private. Yet typing those three words (for the whole world to see) has been strangely liberating.
I’m not looking for attention. Or sympathy. I just want one thing – for people to realise it’s ok to not be ok.
“Be pitiful. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Ian Maclaren wrote those words in the 1897 Christmas Edition of The British Weekly. Yet it seems they feel on deaf ears. Why? Because 120 years later, variations of the quote (typically “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about”) are widely misattributed to Plato or Philo of Alexandria. And mental health is still a taboo subject.
It’s time to break it. Here’s why:
- 1 in 6 New Zealand adults will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point of their lives.
- More than 200,000 New Zealander adults will have experienced psychological distress in the past four weeks.
- Mental disorders are the third-leading cause of health loss in New Zealand (after cancer and vascular/blood disorders).
This deeply-rooted ‘taboo’ is now a major issue and society can no longer afford to ignore it – anyone can be affected at any time of life (regardless of gender, race, religion or socioeconomic status).
So, how do we remove the stigma? I believe the answer is awareness and education.
I’m not a health professional. So, am unable to deal with the latter. But I do have a voice; and, as a result, can share my experiences. No matter how difficult it may be.
I suffer from crippling anxiety.
Mental health is now a major issue and society can no longer afford to ignore it – anyone can be affected at any time of life.
It all started at the end of 2012. I became obsessed with counting calories and started worrying about my appearance.
This only negatively affected my body at first. However, soon became a mental issue. People would refer to me as a ‘holocaust survivor’. Or tell me to eat something. Which would make me more distressed and lead to further worrying.
Alas, a vicious cycle of anxiety was born.
Over the course of five months, I lost all confidence in myself. I struggled with my identity and became a ‘yes’ man constantly seeking validation from others.
This resulted in a number of toxic relationships. I associated with people who thought it was ok to judge others and/or treat them terribly. But I knew no better. And these harmful friendships became a new norm for the next three and a half years.
Last November, however, I decided to do something about it.
The first thing was to be true to my values. It’s impossible to view the world positively if you don’t believe in yourself.
The second was to remove a lot of the negative influences in my life. I realised people who were diametrically opposed to my ideals had to go. And so did energy drinks*.
It was hard at first. Going from a few friends to barely any wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience (due to the loneliness). But necessary. It gave me time to reflect, reset and relearn what makes me happy.
It’s been a tough couple of months but I feel like progress is being made. I’m slowly regaining my confidence and have started to develop genuine relationships with some truly amazing people. I live, I laugh and, most importantly, enjoy every day. I’m excited for my future and it’s all because I uttered three simple words.
I’m not ok.
If you feel like you need help, ask for it. It’s available and there is hope. You can find an excellent Live More Awesome resource here: https://livemoreawesome.com/ask-for-help/.
*That’s a discussion for another day.