Why I'm Proud to Say 'I'm OK' as Someone With Mental Illness

I’ve told a good number of people about my struggle with mental illness. So when they ask me, “How are you?” sometimes I see concern in their eyes. They know a lot of the time I’m not OK. Or they ask me, “Have things been any better?” since I’m recovering from several months that were awful.

Lately I tell them, “I’m OK.” And I flash a hesitant smile. But I don’t know if my friends know what “I’m OK” means.

It doesn’t mean I’m calm and happy.
It doesn’t mean my mental illness has left.
It doesn’t mean my thoughts have straightened out.
It doesn’t mean I can think clearly again.
It doesn’t mean I am eager to leave the house.

“I’m OK” means I’m managing. It means I am coping well enough with my inner demons. I’m OK means in this moment, I am treading the waters of my mental illness and my head is above the surface.

I accept I will likely struggle with mental illness for the rest of my life. I take things one day at a time. One day I’m coping and the next day I’m drowning.

I’m happy to say, “I’m OK.” This means I’m managing despite my daily struggles. I’m OK is where I like to be.

Occasionally, though, when someone asks me how I am, I say, “I’m great.” Great means despite my mental illness, I feel calm, excited and happy. I don’t get to say “great” very often. “Great” is the occasional sunlight breaking through clouds.  “Great” is a rainbow after the storm.

I hope my friends understand “OK” and know it is something I am proud to say. I hope they know when I answer, “Great,” I am celebrating a rainbow.

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Thinkstock photo via jujustr.

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