Is it really okay to not be okay?

Jen Hobart snow (cropped)
Over the last year or so, when the international and national mental health day weeks and days came around, I noticed a hashtag I’d never really paid much attention to before: #itsokaytonotbeokay. 

Initially, I thought it was an incredibly open and inspiring way to get mental health issues out in the open. But more recently I’ve been mulling this hashtag over in my mind and have been wondering, is it really okay to not be okay?

When I first read the hashtag I decided that I landed in this bracket: I have anxiety, and that’s okay. I know what it is and understand what I’m dealing with.

In fact, I continue to believe my anxiety actually helps me in my career to make fewer mistakes as I am anxious of the consequences should I make a mistake. But I have also come to realise that it isn’t healthy to live in a constant state of fear that I could get something wrong. 

I often thought it was odd that my team leader would preface sudden meetings with ‘don’t worry, it’s nothing bad’. I realise now this was him reacting my apparent look of terror while I flashed back over the past few weeks trying to work out what I’d done wrong. 

I’ve started to wonder whether my willingness to accept #itsokaytonotbeokay actually prevented me from seeking help to better manage my anxiety.

In recent years there has been this significant shift towards a better understanding of mental health, and even acceptance. I think it’s great that #itsokaytonotbeokay is liberating people from their silence and, in its own way, can help people feel generally healthier and happier to be open with who they are to those around them - but I don’t think it goes far enough to make people more aware that there is help out there.

For years, I avoided mentioning my anxiety to my GP for fear they would try to force medication on me - mostly from my lack of understanding what medication (when properly analysed and prescribed) can do. In hindsight, a properly considered and prescribed anti-anxiety medication might have helped me through the tougher times of my life as a graduate trying to sit the APC. 

I know that it is okay to not be okay and I am proud of what I have achieved in spite of my experiences with anxiety. 

But actually, on reflection, I think the best way to move forward is to ask for support to work through whatever it is that’s facing you. Ultimately, the goal for anyone who is struggling with their mental health is to be aiming for a future in which you’re more okay than not.

Jennifer Hobart is a chartered surveyor with Jones Lang LaSalle in the Thames Valley regionShe is also one of LionHeart’s mental health ambassadors, and previously shared her experiences of suffering from anxiety and her APC journey in this blog.

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