Are you ok?
People ask me this all the time.
To answer, sort of, I usually make some kind of noise and shrug my shoulders.
It feels so rude. I hate feeling like I’m being rude, because I don’t think it is “ok” to be rude to people–especially to extremely kind, well-intentioned, loving people.
Being rude is not “ok.”
But I don’t know how to answer them, because I don’t know what “ok” means anymore.
I mean, I do. I just looked it up, and here are the definitions:
or o·kay (ō-kā′)Informal
n. pl. OK’s or o·kays
tr.v. OK’ed or OK’d, OK’·ing, OK’s or o·kayed or o·kay·ing or o·kays
In my context, I think I have to move past (1) and go straight to (2).
Am I in proper or satisfactory operational or working order? Well, I suppose my body is, for the most part. I’m breathing. I can move all of my limbs. I can speak. I can ingest food, though I rarely want to. My stomach hurts a lot.
My heart is beating, but is it working properly? I have no indication that it isn’t, physically. It seems to be circulating blood to the rest of my body just fine. But does it feel heavy inside of my chest? It does. At the same time, does it feel weightless and empty, as if it isn’t even there? It does. It is just an organ; I realize that. And it is working as an organ. As more than an organ? Nope. Not working properly.
So am I “ok” under 2a? I don’t know.
On to 2b.
Am I uninjured or not seriously injured? I am not physically injured. See most of the above answer.
Am I emotionally injured? Am I spiritually injured? Am I mentally injured? Yes, yes, and yes.
So am I “ok” under 2b? I don’t know.
2c. Fairly healthy. Well, I believe my health, my physical health, is fine. I could probably use some vitamins. I probably should work on putting the weight back on that I’ve lost recently. But am I sick? No, I’m fairly healthy, I would say.
Am I healthy mentally, emotionally, spiritually? I can’t dig into all of that here, specifically, but most likely those closest to me would probably say not so much. Definitely not as healthy as I was up until around 11:00 on June 22nd.
So am I “ok” under 2c? I don’t know.
That’s the problem. When someone asks me, “Are you ok?” I just don’t know how to answer.
I don’t know how to answer if I ask myself if I am ok.
Am I “ok” that minute? Possibly. I have minutes where I may seem ok, and I may act ok. For a lot of hours of a lot of days, I am able to perform tasks. I cleaned my entire house today–well, I take that back. I didn’t get to the toy closet. But I was able to clean most of my house today.
Does that make me ok?
I don’t know.
If I am able to participate in the kind of conversation I would have had with someone before June 22, does that make me ok? Possibly. For that short period of time.
The thing is, when you are trying really hard not to be The Destroyed because you have children who need to be fed, bathed, clothed, entertained, and ready to start school in a week, there are moments, even hours at a time, that you must be “ok.”
If you aren’t, your children won’t be “ok.”
And your children being “ok” is way more important than you being “ok.”
So you go to Wal-mart and the Pig. You go to Subway and Wendy’s. You go to Academy Sports and the bank. Do you want to? Hell no. But do you? Yeah. Because you have to.
Or your kids won’t be “ok.”
And that is worse than being rude.
Even someone carrying around the heaviest empty heart knows that.
But those moments and long stretches of hours end eventually, before you even realize they are ending, and you just can’t take it anymore. Can’t take the cleaning. Can’t take the stupid tv show. Can’t take the conversation. Can’t take the chatter. Can’t take the bickering. Can’t take the asking.
Can’t take the anything.
And all of a sudden, without any warning, there is no more ok. There is just flat-out not ok.
And it doesn’t feel good to be not ok.
For me–just me–there has become something else that makes me not ok.
Besides the deep, deep, deep missing,
besides the questions,
besides the wondering,
besides the unbridled anger,
besides the certainty of everything I knew to be true becoming uncertain,
besides the agony of the memory of June 22,
besides watching burden after burden be stacked on my mama’s shoulders,
besides the texts from my brother than just say, “Hey,” which means, I’m having a hard time this minute,
besides the hugs from my little sister that last a long, long time,
besides the sad eyes of my husband,
besides the words from my daughter that seem to come all too often: “Charles is in heaven, but it is time for him to come back,”
besides the dry eyes of my son who is watching my own eyes way too carefully,
besides the messages from people who love me that ask, over and over again, what they can do for me, and not having an answer because the one thing I want, the one thing I need, the one thing that would make everything ok again, they can’t give me,
besides all of that,
there is something else.
I have been afraid of tall bridges for as long as I can remember. It goes hand in hand with my intense fear of heights. Both bring about physical reactions. They make me almost have panic attacks when faced with them.
I can’t breathe. I scrunch up my shoulders so that I can become as tiny as possible, because somehow, that makes me feel protected. I feel my knees go weak. I feel my stomach drop. And I can’t control one second of it.
But now–I have a new phobia.
A real one. Very similar symptoms.
No control whatsoever.
I find myself terrified of walking into a place where I know a lot of people will be. Crowds. Small. Large. People I know. People I don’t. Groups. A tiny huddle of two or three. One store clerk.
And for someone who, before June 22 at about 11:00, thrived in crowds, it is a foreign, unsettling, baffling, sickening, almost absurd feeling.
But it is dreadful, as in, it brings feelings full of dread.
Very not ok.
When I know it is fixing to happen, I want to make myself invisible. I don’t want to look at anyone, and I don’t want anyone to look at me. If someone comes up to me, I find myself wringing my hands and feeling my heart race. I know I’m fixing to cry, and not because I’m so sad in that very moment.
I’m just The Destroyed.
Very not ok.
I feel like my head is on a swivel, but not really because I won’t let it move. Eyes straight ahead. No looking. But it is in my mind, because I’m constantly worried that someone is headed straight for me. Someone I may have to have a conversation with. Someone who may just look at me. Someone who may touch me. Someone who may say hello. Someone who may give me a look that tells me they feel sorry for me. Someone who may give me a look that says, “Girlie, you are so not ok.” Someone who may give me a look that says they are not ok.
Someone who may ask me, after spying something in my buggy, a question along the lines of, “Can you tell me where you found that?”
Someone who may ask me if I’m ok.
Very not ok.
I can’t wait to get out. I feel like I hold my breath until I’m back into my car, alone, safe again. I feel the safest in my own home, and I feel safest with a small circle of people, but only a few at a time.
And only at certain times.
I feel the safest when I’m with those people who, if all of a sudden I become not ok, are still ok.
And sometimes, I don’t feel safe at all.
Or with no one.
So on top of everything else, there is this new, very real, very un-me phobia.
And it is just not ok.
And I have no idea if it ever will be.
And that is not ok.
Nothing is really ok.