No I Am Not Okay

It is okay that I am not okay
It is okay that I am not okay

No, I am not okay.

I expected a strong reaction to my recent post about infidelity. I expected people to argue with me, to get angry with me, to tell me that cheating is never ever okay (it isn’t) and it was a coward’s way out (it is). I expected people to tell me the Viking deserves better, to ask me if I’d spoken with him before publishing it. I didn’t expect the reaction I got.

“Are you okay?”
“You need to talk to someone”
“I know the name of a good counsellor”
“This article is screaming ‘I need help'”

It may seem flippant to say so, but I thought it was pretty obvious I am not okay.

I thought I’d even said as much in the article itself, explaining how I was struggling and unhappy. In my posts before that about being scared to turn 30 and heartbroken I had no kid, in my post about the grief of infertility.

Yet, people still seemed surprised that I wasn’t coping. That I wasn’t okay.

And I think I’ve figured it out – there is still stigma surrounding mental illness. Still stigma associated with not being okay. We have come a long way and it’s quite often now you’ll hear people say “It’s okay to not be okay” when they’re referring to someone they think is not okay. But when you’re not, and you openly admit it, people just don’t know what to do.

This is unchartered territory. This is where the platitude ends. This is where all our de-stigmatising and theorising has brought us, and we don’t have any tools to deal with what comes next.

So I thought I’d be the first one to say it: It is okay that I am not okay.

You’re going to be alright.

Nothing is going to happen.

It is okay.

I am not okay. But I will be.


Author’s Note, 7:53am 16/06/2015: I did not intend for this piece to read like I do not appreciate the concern expressed for my wellbeing. I meant this piece to be an acknowledgement of my knowledge that I’m not okay, and a reassurance that it will all be okay.

I do appreciate it. Very much so. Every time someone asks if I’m okay, I appreciate it, I am grateful that they care, and then I don’t know what to do next either. I don’t know how to respond. People ask me if I need anything and the honest answer is I don’t know. If I did, perhaps this piece would have been titled “6 Ways To Help Someone Who Isn’t Okay” but it isn’t, and here we are. 

I would like to apologise to anyone who felt hurt by this piece and to let you know I certainly didn’t mean to hurt you. 

I am really sorry.

  • Anna : Colour me Anna

    Hallelujah! I have been having this exact discussion tonight because my recent posts have been heavy and everyone is asking if I’m okay. I am (I wasn’t) but emptying my head makes people uncomfortable because peeps are still squirmy with mental illness. Far out that’s annoying and hard and exhausting. I find just sitting with my sadness helpful but each to their own x

    • Tamsin Howse

      Yeah, I’ve found in the past I can only post one or two depressing posts before people start getting all antsy and anxious about it. But I’d be lying if I pretended to be okay. It doesn’t mean it has to make you uncomfortable!

      • Stella

        Chances are it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. This is purely how you perceive it. “People start getting antsy about it”…. your patronising your readers. Your amendment below explains that your grateful for people asking about how you are feeling, but you also referred to your readers as getting antsy or anxious after you post about your issues. I guess because I’m new to this site that there are things I don’t understand about your journey. I hope you find peace.

  • maree Talidu

    Wow. Friends showing concern. You’re getting annoyed by that? You want honesty? I’m gobsmacked that you’d palm off genuine concern as platitudes. I made 3 out of those 4 comments. And I now regret it, purely because you’ve just belittled people who were reaching out to you.

    • Marcus

      I think it is safe to say that you have completely misunderstood what she is saying here. She is saying that she was expecting judgement, but instead found concern about her well-being. She was completely taken aback by the support she received. Reading what she has written she has clearly said that the support she received was important and non-judgement. That clearly meant a lot to her.

      You have just said said that withdraw that support, so I guess it wasn’t honest or truly felt.

      Shame that you can’t support a person who is hurting.

      • Tamsin Howse

        That is what I was saying, thank you.

      • maree Talidu

        I’ve supported Tamsin for years. She is very much aware of how much I care FOR her and ABOUT her. This article does not sound to me like T found those comments to be helpful or supportive- they were ‘platitudes’ and we should have known better than to ask them because clearly, Tamsin is struggling. So yeah.. When I see 3 quotes that are exact words that I used a little while back used to essentially point out that people don’t know what to say or how to handle mental illness, it both hurts and angers me. If you knew anything about me or my life you’d know that mental illness is something I am explicitly aware of, and if you knew me, you’d know I’ve supported Tamsin as a friend, for years now. So no, you don’t get to tell me how to handle this. This reads heavily as people who made those comments are ‘afraid’ of mental illness or are too dumb to know how to handle it. I will always support Tamsin, but I don’t feel the need to comment on her FB posts as my comments have ended up on here. So I’m not withdrawing my support in general, I’m pulling back on public comments.

    • Tamsin Howse

      Where did I say that? That’s not at all what I was trying to say.

  • Carly Findlay

    My message asking if you were ok was not me getting uncomfortable about mental illness. It was a message out of genuine concern. Sorry if you wanted more or less to be done through reaching out. I have been worried about you since the post from last August when you said you no longer wanted to live (and I reached out then too), and with your ankle, the infertility post and how busy you were getting. It can be hard to know what to do or say in circumstances like this, and I am sorry if asking you are you ok was stating the obvious or not doing enough.

    You write about this being unchartered territory, about people not knowing what to do when someone they love is not ok. And you’re right – not enough advice is given by people who are not ok about what they’d like others to do, about how they’d like to respond. Your blog post has made me uncertain to know how to reach out, because asking ‘are you ok’ doesn’t seem enough. We need to be given the tools to know what to do.

    • Tamsin Howse

      We all need the tools, that’s the thing. None of us really know what to do next, including me.
      Please don’t feel uncertain. Never ever stop asking. They always ALWAYS appreciate it, even if it didn’t come across in this post, I do. I do very much.

  • HandbagMafia

    It was obvious you weren’t okay but as Carly so eloquently points out- we don’t always know the right words to use to reach out and try to offer support. It seems, from reading your blogs, that you have been having some really tough times. Like everyone else, I don’t have the right words either. You’re not okay and it’s not a matter of me being uncomfortable with that or worried how it will impact me (hey, I’m a stranger on the internet!) but that I feel empathy for you and if I knew a way to help you, I’d do it. I hope you are getting whatever help you need and I hope writing it here helps, as well.

    • Tamsin Howse

      Thank you. I don’t have the words either.

  • Stella

    So if your readers or friends weren’t meant to express concern, what did you want them to say? Curious.

    • Tamsin Howse

      I never said they weren’t meant to express concern

  • John James

    Just an observation.

    On social media you project a very self-confident persona… happy snaps, perfect selfies… If people were to judge you simply by how you present yourself on social media, then we’d all assume you were a happy and well-adjusted person with a great job, lovely husband, cute cats, and a contented life…

    But here on KK&T you sometimes present a completely different persona – a woman who is struggling with life and mental illness…

    So, I can understand why some people might struggle to understand that you’re not OK… because how you appear on the outside – happy and bubbly and full of life – doesn’t match how you feel on the inside – scared and confused and anxious.

    We’re not close anymore, but I know both of these people – and they are both real. You are a vivacious and loving person who, in so many ways, has a great life full of loving and supporting people, but you are also someone who suffers from a mental illness, and this illness operates separately from the happy parts of your life.

    That’s something that a lot of people don’t understand about mental illness… You can still function – you can still feel joy and happiness – but anxiety and depression can operate in parallel to these things…

    So, I suspect some people were taken by surprise because they only see the confident and joyful Tamsin… and were shocked by how much you were struggling. So they asked if you were OK because they were genuinely concerned.

    Other people were just asking if you were OK because they already understand that you’re struggling – but they care about you and wanted you to know that – and that’s a good thing too.

    Me? I said nothing because I know you have a great support network and are taking steps to treat and live with your illness. I know you’re not OK, but I also know you’ll get through this.

    • Tamsin Howse

      That’s a very fair point, and I think applies to many people who suffer from mental illness. The “projection” of them is very different to how they’re really feeling.

      • maree Talidu

        This is where I stuffed up. I underestimated your fragility, your resilience, based on how I handle mental health issues, which is on ME. I know you’ve been struggling, but if I think about it carefully, I probably didn’t realise the severity of the struggle. My response should have been more tactful, more eloquent/articulate. I should have waited until I wasn’t emotional to respond, because I took parts of it personally, which again, is on me. Not you. And just because the way I manage my own mental health issues is something I keep private (not out of shame) doesn’t mean that you can’t deal with yours very publicly. JJ made some good points there. No, you’re not ok. And that in itself, isn’t ideal- but it won’t last. You will get through it.

  • Monique Fischle

    I always struggle to know what to do in these situations. I’m a fixer so all I want to know is what I can do to make things better and if it’s something that a person can realistically do, I’ll do it.

    I do, however, know a few things. I know you aren’t okay. I know there’s not really a whole lot I can do to help you be okay. I know that I can continue to be a friend to you and that’s the best thing I can do. I know that someday (hopefully soon) you will be okay. But for now, it’s okay that you’re not okay.

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