By David Joel Miller.
Some days being OK is a long way from being good.
The other day I asked someone how they were doing. They said, “I am doing OK and that’s not a good thing.” This got me to thinking how often we ask someone how they are doing and take that OK as a positive response. Sometimes doing OK is a really bad thing. Let me explain.
What does being OK mean to a homeless person?
Ask any homeless person how they are doing and you are likely to get an OK unless they trust you enough for a more factual response like “How do you think I am doing? Or “My life sucks!”
For a homeless person, OK may mean they had something to eat last night or yesterday. It could mean that they didn’t get rolled or beaten for their belongings last night. It is a long way from being able to say they got their needs, physical, emotional or medical, met any time recently.
What OK may mean for a homeless person is that their mental illness or drug addiction hasn’t total destroyed them – yet.
What’s OK mean when you have a mental illness?
People with a mental illness try their hardest to be “OK” as if trying could prevent mental illness. For some, an OK day means they are not suicidal today. The voices are at a manageable level or their depression has not gotten so horrific that they are unable to get out of bed. Maybe OK means they are not suicidal – today.
Being OK when you have a mental illness is a long way from being stable or symptoms free. Mostly when you have a mental illness and you are having an OK day you are trying really hard to not show how difficult your life really is.
What is OK for the couple who can’t get along?
The couple in relationship counseling, for them OK may mean that today they didn’t fight, not as much anyway. For them, OK may be a day when they are not planning their divorce. Sometimes it means that despite the separation or the divorce today they managed to get up and pretend they were over the break-up and having a happy life.
Maybe today “OK” for people with a troubled or failing relationship means a day where the pain is a little less acute. Sometimes OK just means I will make it through today but I don’t know about tomorrow.
How is OK for the terminally ill person?
Sit around a waiting room in a critical care facility or visit the intensive care wards in any hospital. You will find some incredibly sick people in some severe pain. Ask them how they are doing? You will probably get an OK.
For the terminally ill “OK” may mean that the pain isn’t any worse today that yesterday. More likely it means they are trying their hardest to hang on and make some sense of this experience that we call life. OK may mean that they are resigned to their suffering.
What is an OK day for the elderly?
What’s OK to someone in a long-term care facility? Not the fancy kind the well-to-do see but the publicly funded ones where people who have no family and friends left, go to be stored till they cede their bed to the next occupant when they die.
You hear a lot of OK’s in those kinds of facilities. What that means is that they have become numb to the loneliness or the isolation. It may mean that they have managed to get out of bed today or that they are doing their best to just sit there waiting for whatever.
What is OK for the addict/ alcoholic?
For the addict, an OK day may mean that the withdrawal symptoms are getting less painful. This may be the day that they were able to make it all day without drinking or using even when the cravings were about to drive them crazy.
If today your own mind was not yelling at you all day that you needed a drink or some dope that might be an OK day. If you were able to make it to a meeting or treatment today even while having those thoughts and cravings the whole time, then for you today was an OK day.
Saying OK does not mean you are cured, that you will never drink or use again. It means that you just might make it through today clean and sober.
Forgive me if I question you.
So if when I ask you how you are doing and you tell me “OK,” can you see why I might ask you if that is a good thing or a bad thing? See for some people an OK day is nowhere near a good day.
Next time you have someone tell you they are OK and you know they are going through it, think of a way to make them laugh or smile. Is there a way you can lighten that load and make their OK day less burdensome? Maybe you can be the one who can make someone’s OK day just a little brighter.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books