This is Our Conversation
You see me around and I look OK. My make-up and hair is done, I wear nice clothes. You tell me I look good but that I should smile more. I thank you for your compliment.
You ask how I am, and I say “I’m good, thanks”. I ask how you are, and listen as you tell me about what is happening in your life, and your news. I smile about the good news you talk about, and I’m happy for you. You ask if I have any news. I say “not much” and divert the conversation by asking a question about you and your life again.
You ask me why I wasn’t at the last few social gatherings, or why I’m leaving early when I’m finally out of hibernation. I hold my breath a little and let out a small fake giggle.
You ask me about work, and I tell you that I’ve had some time off. You ask when I’ll be back to work. You give me a look as though I should be working.
What If We Had a Different Conversation?
When you ask how I am, what if I tell you that I’m not OK and tell you why?
Do you really want to hear that my Dad has cancer and his leg just got amputated from the 26th surgery he has had this year? Do you really want to hear that I have health problems affecting my fertility, and that it pains me to go to your child’s birthday and see all these kids that I may not be able to ever experience? Do you really want to hear that I suffer from chronic pain, and have had multiple surgeries that you probably don’t know about? Or how I struggle with finding a job role that can accommodate to all of this happening in my life?
You might think that you would be there for me. But I tried it once. In fact I tried it several times, hoping for a warm hug. Yes, that would have sufficed.
One time I told you that my Dad had died from cancer. You sent me ‘condolences’ by text messages as though I was a stranger, and didn’t call me for weeks. Another time I had miscarried. One of your first questions was what I did with ‘it’, as though your curiosity was more valuable than my feelings or experience. You said sorry yet expected me to be at a social gathering for your child’s birthday just a week later. Yet another time, I explained my chronic pain of endometriosis and how I wasn’t feeling well, yet instead of thanking me for coming to your event anyway, you pressured me to stay longer.
I’m tired. I’m tried from what I’m going through. I’m tired from you not trying to understand. I’m tired and I sometimes I don’t want to talk. I’m tired of hearing things like “things will get better” or “stay strong”.
I have been strong. I am strong. That’s how I make it through each day.
Most of the time, I just want you to realise that I just need a hug.
The things I'm going through are real
I know that when I do talk, sometimes you fear the things I talk about; otherwise they wouldn’t make you feel so uncomfortable.
The things I go through are REAL. Yes, they could happen to you. I know that scares you, but it is a reality. If it did happen to you, I would understand because I have been through those things.
First of all, I would hug you, and tell you that I’m here for you if you need anything. I would listen to your feelings. I wouldn’t offer you advice unless you asked me. I wouldn’t tell you to ‘move on’ or ‘be strong’; those things come in time.
Besides, you already ARE strong for telling me how you feel.
Are You OK?
All these thoughts make me wonder. Are you OK?
Perhaps you are doing the same thing too, in your own way, hiding from me something that is hurting you.
What if we were all open and honest with one another, rather than hiding it away inside and wearing a mask of smiles? What if we stopped having expectations of each other, and just started to notice differences in our individual behaviour, so we could start to see when something wasn’t ‘right’ in one another? What if it was okay to NOT be OK?
Maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone in our experiences.
Maybe by noticing each other, sharing our experience, talking about it and having our emotions acknowledged, and getting a comforting hug, we could actually start our process of healing.
Maybe we would be OK.
Thursday 8 September is R U OK day in Australia.