Stop gaslighting everyone Jessie J! This song and this sentiment (that it’s “ok not to be ok”) seem to be very popular amongst the very young and “neuroatypical” Tumblr crowd suffering from, among other things, anxiety and depression. Reading the comments under the YouTube video reveals a lot, well, it reveals a lot of the same thing: young people feeling “not ok” and suffering through dark times only to reemerge triumphant in the end, and probably on addictive and expensive psych meds that will likely cause serious and even permanent side effects like involuntary muscle movements (and death). That counts as “ok” apparently, and the “not ok” is “ok” if and only if it doesn’t go on too long and as long as you “get help.”
Of course, the
side effects iatrogenic illness and injury from the psych meds themselves, including permanent neurological disability and death — and the “not ok” those cause — are worth it as long as the person is made ok now, for the time being. Whatever “ok” means in this context because I sure as hell can’t figure it out other than that “ok” seems to mean “compliance” and specifically, willingness to engage with and submit to capitalistic patriarchal medicine. Compliance and submission = ok. Does this sound like it’s actually ok to not be ok? Or does it sound like a bunch of shit?
And what happens when people are “not ok” for a long time, or forever? Just ask someone who is chronically ill how friends and family perceive their illness once it’s gone on for months, years, or a lifetime. In my own case, when I lost my apartment in a hurricane, had to move in with my ex-partner’s mother and was getting sicker by the day, my friends and family harassed me constantly for “updates” about the hurricane damage, my housing situation and the status of my health but I soon realized they weren’t looking for truthful reports so much as they were demanding constant assurances that I was Ok and that everything was fine. When the truth was I had never been so not-ok in my life and considering the nature of my incurable, progressive disease I was unlikely to be “fine” ever again. No one wants to hear that! Hearing that makes them feel not ok! And healthy people have to feel ok all the time no matter what, even at the expense of sick people and sick people’s ok. So is it really ok to not be ok? No. Sick people have to learn to fake it if they want (or have no choice but) to maintain these relationships. But there’s more.
After a few years of being “sick” in the context of an incurable, untreatable and progressive disease, it is possible to get used to it, to resign yourself to it, and to become relatively ok with the idea and reality of being sick and the idea and reality of always being some degree of sick and never being healthy again. It is possible to plateau with your treatment and/or to get used to some level and degree of discomfort, misery and uncertainty and to accept the reality of being chronically and incurably ill. To make peace with the reality of the situation where some illnesses are known to be incurable and progressive, meaning, you will be fortunate to just stay the same amount of sick you are now and to not get worse over time. But then what happens when you get ok with it and accept it and find some kind, any kind of peace? People accuse you of giving up, of not trying hard enough, of refusing to get better! When you’re chronically ill, being not-ok makes everyone feel icky but if and when you ever manage to get ok with it that’s not ok either.
And the only sense I can make of that — that it’s not ok to be not-ok and it’s also not ok to be ok — is that (as above) compliance and submission to capitalistic patriarchal medicine is the only kind of ok that’s really ok, meaning that it’s the only kind that makes the well people feel better. That chronically ill people have to consume, consume, consume, and try, try, try to not just stay the same, and not to just improve, but to literally (somehow!) cure themselves of incurable disease. Sick people trying and consuming makes other people feel ok, regardless of what it does to the person who is actually sick, and even where the constant stress, energy expenditure and even outright sadistic abuse suffered at the hands of Western or even alternative medicine are known to make us worse. All of that is what everyone means by ok, and that they hope you are ok right now or that you get ok soon.
The other possibility — where it’s not ok to be not-ok and it’s also not ok to be ok — is that it’s not ok to be at all, when you are chronically ill. Isn’t it? What else could it mean that you can’t (or shouldn’t) be this and you can’t (or shouldn’t) be that, where this and that are the only 2 options available, other than that you can’t or shouldn’t be at all? And don’t get me wrong — I am no fan of be-ing per se and I would actually prefer to be dead than to be seriously chronically ill, where I have little or nothing to look forward to except more pain and eventual homelessness and incarceration for the literal crime of being an incurably ill female under capitalism and patriarchy. I have always believed that some things were worse than death and being homeless (or incarcerated) as an un- or undertreated Crohn’s patient has to be one of those things — a fate truly worse than death. Honestly, under even the best of circumstances, being an un- or undertreated Crohn’s patient is a hellish existence. But under capitalism and patriarchy we also aren’t allowed to die — we are expected to consume, consume, consume until the cows come home.
So we can’t be ok, we can’t be not-ok, we can’t be and we also can’t not-be. What the fuck are the seriously chronically ill supposed to do then, except to suffer terribly for the rest of our unnaturally extended, miserable, consumerist lives? Is that what ok means? To and for who, exactly, is any of this ok?