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Is it okay not to be okay?


I may be too literal in interpreting this popular, well-meaning saying, "It's okay not to be okay", but I'm truly on the fence with how helpful it is.

I love that it breaks down masks of perfection. Love that it normalises struggles with parenting, for example. Love the message that you do not need to be happy or positive all of the time ... as life can be challenging. I thoroughly agree.

BUT, what if it over-normalises problems to the point where people just accept rather than be motivated to seek support and seek change? In this way, the saying "it's okay not to be okay" could be invalidating for some.

In my practice, I've heard many clients say they were excessively reassured by others. In the cloud of self-doubt and confusion, even some significant symptoms of panic, anxiety and depression were then believed to be par for the course or avoided altogether. This has caused delays in commencing the appropriate treatment. The consequences of these delays have been increased severity of problems and detrimental effects on functioning and family.

My advice? Normalise when appropriate. However, please don't always use, "it's okay not to be okay" and "don't worry, everyone struggles" type comments. Trust your instincts - whether it be about yourself or significant others. If something seems overly difficult or is persisting too long, reach out. Let the professionals (e.g., GP, midwife, Plunket nurse or psychologist) help to judge the severity.

Sometimes, it's just NOT okay not to be okay.


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Dr Sarah Bell-Booth

Clinical Psychologist

0273462707

dr.sarah.bellbooth@gmail.com

Auckland, New Zealand

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© 2020 by Dr Sarah Bell-Booth. Illustrations by Jay Allen