The People Who Say I ‘Look OK’ Can’t See the Inward Battle I’m Fighting

If one more person says I “look OK,” I’m going to scream. I had a massive brain stem stroke five years ago that left me unable to walk and talk. Fast forward to today and I have gained much of that back. But it is under the surface, what people can’t see, that is the challenge every day.

Before my stroke, I was a high school teacher, always on top of things and ready to quickly adapt to new situations. Now I can barely help my children with their homework. I’ve been left with emotional and cognitive issues that make what might be simple tasks for others — such as decision-making, finances, house keep-up — extremely anxiety-driven for me. For example, paying a cashier at the store is very stressful for me since they want the transaction to be quick. I am not fast, and therefore I get slowed down due to frustration. An outing to get groceries can lead to a panic attack.

Life is an emotional roller coaster for me daily, and it is hard to get some family and friends to understand I cannot just fix it. I may “look” like I’m fine, but I’m fighting an inward battle on a daily basis that makes me tired, moody, and sometimes not very happy with the person I am.

So the next time you see someone who’s been going through hard times, ask them, “Are you OK?” That question can sound so much more comforting in the ears of someone who is not doing OK.

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