I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a small town. In my neighborhood there were a lot of kids around my age. I didn’t have any brothers. I have two younger sisters. Nothing wrong with it as my sisters are the best. There comes a time when a guy wants a brother though. Enter the neighborhood kids. I had brothers galore growing up thanks to all of the friends I made throughout my neighborhood. We played together all of the time. One of our favorite games to play and this involved the whole neighborhood and I’m not talking about all the neighborhood kids, but literally the game was played all over our neighborhood. In peoples back yards. Under their decks. Hopping fences if need be. The game we played was called Ditch’em. It’s basically a huge game of tag involving two teams. The ones who hide and the ones who find. We hid all over the neighborhood. Oh yeah, we played this game at night! Some hid and some liked to roam. Of course the idea was not to get caught. It basically was a huge game of tag the neighbors didn’t mind us playing throughout their yards and around their stuff. It was an awesome game!
Now, with the game of tag. You have someone or a group of someones who are “it”. They are supposed to go after the ones who are either hiding, the way we played it at least, or try to catch the ones running around. There also was a base. Base was safe and you couldn’t be tagged “it”. Now you could stay on base the whole time, if you wanted, always being out of harms way, or you could take your chances and run around always risking being caught. Some like to play it safe and it is OK to play the game this way, but how much fun do you really have playing the game by watching everyone else. Running away from base, putting yourself at greater risk or being caught, always had more appeal as you are really involved in the game. Therefore, with the greater involvement you can have a greater enjoyment of the game.
Enter the idea of “It’s OK to not be OK”. I talk and write about this a lot. I do it because it is true. It has to be true. This idea is a key foundation for mental health awareness and also for mental health growth. I will continue to repeat it for as long as I try and spread the mental health awareness message to as many people as I can. It is OK to not be OK. It really is, but we can’t just go there and set up shop and call it a day.
“It’s OK to not be OK” is basically base in the life game of tag. You can go there whenever you need to. If it is not OK to not be OK, then we have lost sight of the game. We have to be able to admit to ourselves and to others that we are not always at 100% or anywhere close to it. If we never admit it then we keep everything we are dealing with bottled up. It never gets out. Well, it will eventually get out, but it usually is an explosion and comes out not in the way it could have come out.
Bottling it up can lead to what we need to get out not coming out as smooth as it should or could come out. I know for me, when I bottle everything up and keep it all to myself, it usually comes out when I am angry or frustrated. The message gets lost in my blow up. What is meant to be a cry for help can get lost in the tone of the explosion. The cry is there, but the message is delivered and received differently than it was intended and isn’t effective in getting the message across.
But why do we bottle it up to the point of a possible explosion? I believe it is the stigma associated with mental health and talking about it. The stigma has been a part of our society for a long long time. It is felt society will look down on us if we admit to needing help. It is believed we are weak for seeking help and not just sucking it up and figuring it out ourselves. Just deal with it. Stop talking about your feelings. Don’t be in touch with your emotions. These beliefs are a load of crap!
I don’t believe society, as a whole, wants people to feel bad, but these beliefs have been allowed to build up through time. Walls built up through times long gone, but the beliefs remain present none the less. They are walls built up to prevent us from really getting to where we need to go. They are walls that need to be torn down! It is OK to WANT to tear down those walls. It is OK to TEAR down the walls. Leave these old beliefs in a pile of rubble. The walls are just a reminder of the past. A past that we can move on from. It is OK to not be OK…period.
Back to the game of tag and how this all fits in to what I have written above. It’s OK to not be OK. This idea is base. It is a safe place for us to go. It is an idea where we can actually admit to ourselves we need something and, it is OK to need something. I also believe it is a signal, once we believe the idea ourselves, to reach out to others and not go at the healing process alone. We just can’t set up shop on base.
We don’t have to be on our game all of the time. We can admit it when we are not. We can’t just sit on base though. We can sit on base the whole time, as no one can tell you or make you do different if you don’t want to, but how much fun is life if we just sit on base all of the time?
Go to base when you need to. Catch your breath. Stay as long as you want, but to really enjoy the game, we have to venture back off of base from time to time. You don’t have to take off sprinting the second you decide to leave base either. It is OK to take a few steps off at a time. Get comfortable. If you get uncomfortable, base is still right there and you can go back to it. Eventually, we can venture farther and farther off of base.
Now as we venture farther and farther off of base, we do risk being tagged it by life. Life is coming for you whether you want it to or not, but we still have to get out there and play. It’s OK to be tagged “it”. Maybe you won’t be. You will have more fun playing the game regardless of the different outcomes. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose, but we play the game no matter what. By playing the game, we become better at playing the game. We figure out how to avoid being tagged “it” the more and more we play the game and figure it out.
Base is always there. You can always go back to it. Catch your breath. You could stay on base if you want too. It can be fun watching the game being played, by the others, as you watch the game unfold from safety. Wouldn’t it be more fun to get out there and play the game as it’s meant to be played?
I really do love the phrase “It’s OK to not be OK”. It will continue to be a theme of mine as I continue to advocate for mental health awareness. It is OK to not be OK, but the concept isn’t meant to be a stopping point. It is not the finish line. It is only a rest stop. Somewhere we can go to. Spend time. Get our minds right. It is base. It is safe. We have to venture off the safety of base and grow from there after we catch our breath. Play the entire game. Admitting we are not OK is the first step to growth and to stronger mental health. Each time we catch our breath and then venture back out there, we learn, and by learning we can play the game better and better each time we venture off of base.
You got this! We got this! It’s OK to not be OK. Let’s continue to walk this journey together.
Have a great day!
Feel free to jump over to Facebook and join the group I’ve started:
Jason Kehl’s Basement Of Jams: Rocking Mental Health
This group is meant to focus on an “everybody in” type of focus. I share my music and also this blog there amongst other things. The music I share is instrumental (I am not a singer). I try and attach a positive message to each tune. I also encourage others to share their hobbies or anything that they like to do that makes them happy. Or share anything that is working for them. A place where we can get away from things for a while. A group approach to improving each others mental health!
I’ve also started a podcast in hopes that my desire to spread mental health awareness can reach more people.
Jason Kehl’s Basement Of Jams: Rocking Mental Health
Also on Apple Podcasts and Spotify
Please check it out!