Asking RUOK once a year isn't enough
In 2006, my life was irrevocably changed. Those who know my story know that it nearly cost me my life, changed the trajectory of my future and put most, if not all my dreams on hold until I recovered. Today is a different story, I'm thriving, kicking goals and fiercely taking back what was mine. But today, September 8 is also a reminder that not everyone is 'OK' all the time, especially if you can't see behind the smiles and listen to what's being said between the lines.
RUOK day has rolled around once again giving the world permission to answer truthfully. Tomorrow though, most of us go back to the usual, rehearsed answers of fine and great thanks.
While the initiative and the day itself is a great idea garnering support from champions of mental health, it does make me wonder why we need a day dedicated to telling people how we really feel. I know the answer of course. I haven’t been accused of being naive since highschool. It’s more of a rhetorical question. Why do we need to be told when we are allowed to be free to speak our minds? Why can’t we be free to tell our peers, friends and family on any other day of the year that isn’t September 8? I guess that little naive highschooler within, wants to believe that the world isn’t still stuck in the fifties where women belong in the kitchen and men don’t talk about ‘mushy stuff’. The realist in me knows that we have a long way to go.
Because of this, RUOK day needs to exist, it needs to be promoted and pushed as much as possible, whenever possible.
In my space both online and in person where I speak with survivors of sexual assualt, I’m regularly surrounded by girls and women who are battling internally, all year round. One day a year to ask how they’re doing is nice, but hardly enough.
For me personally, I can say with my hand on my heart that most of the time I'm completely okay! Other times, there are glimmers of sadness that flicker through the usually bright persona I pride myself upon. These days usually come about after a particularly rough week, a trigger, or when I’m working on some of my material that is related in terms of content whether it’s a book or a piece like this. So these moments are the ones that make me feel sad, not because I’m feeling down but because there’s this notion that unless it’s RUOK day no one really cares how I’m feeling because it’s ‘old news’ and not relevant to what’s happening today.
However, as with all forms of trauma there are no set time limitations or boundaries for when we’re expected to have recovered or moved on. There are easy days, there are hard days. Some days are intolerable. But all days are days where those feelings, the trauma, the memories are still there and because of that having just one day to be free to speak about how you feel, is hard.
So, I implore you, ask RUOK every time you see a friend who doesn’t seem to be themselves, ask RUOK if you notice your colleague isn’t as bubbly as usual. It could be nothing at all but if it is, it makes the world of difference knowing that you’re seen and heard. We all need to get better at taking time to stop, listen and really see.
In parting, I am OK because I have a wonderful network of friends and family who are here for me all year round but others aren’t so fortunate, so for those people, if you’re reading this and you don’t have a network please reach out!