Today Is RU OK Day – Is Anyone?

Today is RU OK day. Is anyone? Anyone at all? I’m not. It’s week 10 of lockdown in Sydney, and while my mental health isn’t the worst it’s ever been, it’s not the best. Lockdown hasn’t been too bad this time around: I have a roof over my head, an apartment furnished with the sort of bullshit that makes lockdown a bit nicer (candles, a Nintendo Switch, and enough skincare products to open my own day spa), and I’m not stressed to the eyeballs about impending economic collapse and losing my job. I’m also fully vaccinated, and – with some pestering on my part – so are most of my loved ones. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not in a terrible position. But I’m also not great.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve joked about “losing all sense of time”, but I honestly have. Is it week two? Is it week 10? Is it March 2020? I don’t know. Apart from the days (and my hair) getting longer, there’s nothing to differentiate between today and three weeks ago, or three months ago. My fiddle-leaf fig sprouted a couple new leaves, which I’m absurdly proud of – or I would be, if I was capable of feeling an emotion as strong as pride.

A viral piece in the New York Times put a name to this blah feeling we’re all living with: languishing. It’s a feeling of “stagnation and emptiness”, psychologist and author Adam Grant wrote, as though “you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield”. It’s the middle child of mental health. You’re not depressed, you’re not flourishing, you’re just… blah.

I am sitting in the same apartment, working the same job, messaging my same friends and working through the same shit as I was 18 months ago. The difference between this time round and the start of the pandemic – as I’m sure we all know by now – is that last year was novel (and I’m not just talking about the coronavirus). Sure, we were in fight or flight mode, but we were also doing tragic things like dressing up to take the bins out or jumping on House Party. We had this great sense of shared purpose: we were doing our part to help our fellow man. Staying home wasn’t just for us – it was to protect the immunocompromised and avoid putting pressure on our healthcare system. This time, for endless reasons that are well-trodden ground by now, all the ‘positives’ of the pandemic are long-forgotten.

This unbearable flatness has no fix. We can go for walks, catch up with friends, take our meds, try to get eight hours of sleep, meet with our psychologist if we’re lucky enough to have one, drink water, fill the gaping void with online shopping, book our vaccinations, urge our loved ones to book vaccinations, hoover up the crumbs of freedoms our elected leaders promise from our television screens… and it still doesn’t change. ‘Not being depressed’ doesn’t feel like a win (although in many ways it is). And whatever our situation is, we’re all aware that someone, somewhere, has a different set of struggles.

As my very wise and smart editor Josie put it to me the other day: usually when someone is going through a tough time, we’re all able to offer them our sympathy and support. But this time, we’re all broadly struggling with the same issue. Yes, the pandemic has impacted people differently – none more so than across economic divides – but none of us has escaped this unscathed. And even if you, personally, are thriving (HOW?), then I’m sure you’re feeling drained from supporting the people around you. Most of us aren’t trained for this, and even the people who are usually get a break.

So no, I’m not okay. And I don’t think I know anyone who is. RU OK Day is all about checking in with the people around you (this year’s message is “are they really okay?”), but now more than ever, it’s time to ask yourself that first.

There’s a few resources you can turn to if you’re not okay. RU OK is a good place to start. If you’re in distress and need to talk to or text with someone, Lifeline is great – 13 11 14. If you want to access support for however you’re feeling, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or the Kids Helpline (for ages 5 to 25) on 1800 55 1800 are both available. I would strongly encourage anyone feeling flat to also make an appointment with a GP to talk about a mental health plan: it’s the first step in finding a psychologist to work on some long-term care. You don’t have to be in a crisis to see a psych.