An edited version of this post appeared on The Mighty on September 29, 2016.
Yesterday on our way to work, I told Ryan that 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.
If you follow me on social media, or if you caught the last post here, you know that Ryan 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.
Ryan asked why my therapist had brought up that topic and if she was concerned about him. I laughed and emphasized that 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. She wants me to be prepared for the possibility. She also knows that I’m worried that I’ll get to the point that I somewhat jokingly call “losing my shit.” That is the point where I know that everything has become too much and that I need to ask for more help in the form of medications or in-patient programs. Those are the things that I am trying so, so hard to avoid.
Anxiety is an asshole, or, more precisely, panic disorder with agoraphobia, is an asshole.
Ryan looked at me and said reassuringly, “You’re fine. You’re doing OK. You haven’t lost your shit.”
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 that 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 that I’m going to be found out, that someone is going to notice that my crazy is showing. Someone is going to tell me that I am, in fact, not capable of handling this or anything, that I possess a character flaw that guarantees that I will lose my shit at any moment. I am equally worried that 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. What the actual fuck, anxiety? GTFO.
So, when you ask me if I’m OK, I might say that I am. And, 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 that I trust you enough to know that about me. Know that I trust you enough to understand that while I might not be OK, I’m OKish. Know that I trust you enough to not judge me for my not-OK-ness. Know that I trust you to not judge my problems as “not real problems” or to not tell me that “things could be worse.” (Fuck you, judgment police.) Know that I don’t need your pity but that I do need you to know that I’m doing the best that I can every single day.* Know that 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.
*For the record, when I wrote that line about doing my best, I cried. Hard. Sometimes even I forget that I’m trying, and I judge myself harshly for it.