‘What is it like ? …. are you okay?…..

People often ask two questions, ‘What is it like?’ and ‘Are you okay?’. Like they can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s like to be in such a moment of need to ask for someone to come along to help you deal with it. As if you can’t possibly be their version of ‘okay’ even if you say you are.

These questions are usually met with a weird frown on the person’s face with pity or concern, maybe a mix of them both, shining through their eyes.

Now those questions, said in that way, bug me.

When a person asks these questions about CAMHS, your therapy and your experience with mental illness in this way, you start to feel ashamed and overwhelmed, as if there is something very wrong with you, when in fact, you just need help, and you’re getting it. But you feel attacked and as if some cruel bully put ‘pity me’ on your back.

I guess the worst part about those questions, are the way they are said. The ‘like’ being exaggerated like it’s the most dangerous place in the world. The ‘okay’ dragged out like they need to act very ‘gentle’ around you, even though it’s patronising and annoying.

‘What is it like?’ ‘Are you okay?’

 When these questions are said with genuine interest and not pity, you react differently, well at least I do. When someone wants to learn what it’s like to be in an environment such as CAMHS, I get pride from it. It’s almost like there is a flash of ‘thank you!’ and ‘yes!’ in my mind, because someone wants to learn about a subject that people don’t want to go near and is highly stigmatised.

And then you get to teach them about the wonders of CAMHS, the way the staff always have warm, genuine smiles on their faces, how they offer so much that you know you’ll reach your goal in the long run and how it works, appointments and different types of therapy.

And when they ask ‘Are you okay?’ you know they aren’t trying to be patronising, they just want to make sure that you’re okay and fine right at that moment, not for your entire life, but in that moment, to make sure you’re comfortable without overstepping that line.

Two questions, two different ways of asking them. Just ask the right one, it’s better for both parties.


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