Telling Me I’m 'OK’ Doesn’t Change My Anxiety


Recently, on our way to work, I told my boyfriend my therapist asked how I was dealing with the possibility of his death. I hadn’t intended to broach that subject with him. It’s morbid and pessimistic. He, however, brings it up regularly. I’m the optimist. He’s the pessimist.

My boyfriend needs a kidney transplant. At first, the timeline for his transplant seemed like it would be in a year or two. That timeline soon became six months, and now it needs to happen as soon as possible. It’s a lot to try to comprehend and prepare for.

He asked why my therapist had brought up that topic and if she was concerned about him. I laughed and emphasized she’s concerned about me. She’s concerned about how I will handle it and about how I’ll deal with it on top of everything else that’s going on in my life at the moment.

She wants me to be prepared for the possibility. She also knows I’m worried I’ll get to the point that I somewhat jokingly call “losing it.” This is the point where I know that everything has become too much, and I need to ask for more help in the form of inpatient programs or other interventions. Those are the things I am trying so, so hard to avoid.

Anxiety is a thief and a liar. More precisely, panic disorder with agoraphobia, is a thief and a liar.

My boyfriend looked at me and said reassuringly, “You’re fine. You’re doing OK. You haven’t lost it.”

I paused, then said, “No, actually, I am not OK.” He said it again, confirming what he thought to be true.

I replied, “No, I’m not, and your saying that I am isn’t helping. Saying I’m OK doesn’t actually make me OK. It doesn’t make it better.”

He looked at me, puzzled, and said, “But you seem OK. You seem fine. You’re… you.”

That’s what I do. I can compartmentalize with the best of them. I can be outwardly OK while my inner monologue is a mix of primal screams and a repeating chorus of how not enough I think I am. Some days, I am certain I’m going to be found out, that someone is going to notice my not so put-together side is showing.

Someone is going to tell me I am, in fact, not capable of handling this or anything. Someone is going to tell me I possess a character flaw that guarantees I will lose it at any moment. I am equally worried someone will judge me for not being “not OK enough,” for not falling apart as much or as quickly as I should be.

I can even fail at having enough anxiety. Seriously, anxiety? The door is that way.

So, when you ask me if I’m OK, I might say I am. For that moment and for that interaction, I am. It’s not a lie, but it’s not the entire truth. If you ask me if I’m OK, and I say that I’m not, know I trust you enough to know that about me. Know I trust you enough to understand while I might not be OK, I’m OK-ish. Know I trust you enough to not judge me for my “not OK-ness.”

Know I trust you to not judge my problems as “not real problems” or to not tell me that “things could be worse.” (Did I ask for your opinion, judgment police?) Know I don’t need your pity, but I do need you to know I’m doing the best I can every single day. Know I’m doing my best even when my best is watching 10 episodes of “Veronica Mars” in a row because that’s all I can handle.

And that? That is absolutely enough. That is definitely OK.

Image via Thinkstock.

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