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You’re Not OK Just The Way You Are

Why would anyone tell someone in the grips of mania, depression or anxiety, “Don’t be hard on yourself, you’re fine just the way you are?”

Obviously, they’re not fine. They’re as far from fine as a person can get.  Yet people think this will make them feel better.

The last thing I want to hear when I’m in a raging mixed episode is that deep inside me there’s a well-adjusted, fulfilled person waiting to get out.  Well, there isn’t.  Deep inside me is misery and pain and world-negation.  Nothing good can come of that.

Tell me instead, “I see that you’re miserable.  I understand. Maybe I can help you get better.”

Just don’t tell me it’s OK to feel this way.  Feeling the full force of bipolar disorder can make life a living hell.  There is nothing OK about that.

In the depths of an episode I’m sure things will never get better.  Telling me it’s OK to feel this way leaves me no way out.  You know it’s not OK to feel this way, ever.  So don’t ever say it is.

It bothers me so much that people are trying to normalize mental illness.  It’s as if we with mental illness are next up in the line of identity politics, and we’re poised to demand our special recognition and accommodations as we live the life we choose to live.

No one chooses this.

I’ve been dealing with bipolar disorder for a long time and I will not identify with it.  It is not Ok to have a mental illness.  A mental illness needs to be treated and managed so that the unfortunate person who suffers from it can find a place of stability and continue to contribute to society.

I’m not saying, “you know you’re beautiful” to anyone who’s life is rendered ugly by illness.  It’s illness, after all.  It’s an aberration.  It can be, and it needs to be, fixed.

I’ve wanted to, and have tried to, kill myself.  How can anyone say that’s OK?  That goes against everything we need to love each other and to hold together as a society. Be honest.  Say it’s not OK, it’s terrible.  Forgive me.  Then reach out a hand and try to help.

Getting well is a process, and to begin that process one must admit that they are not at all where they want to be right now.  One has to understand that things are wrong, but things can change.  Illness should be treated and overcome.

There is a lot to be learned on a journey through mental illness.  Good things can come from the struggle.  But it is a journey and a struggle and you must get through it.  It’s not OK to be sick, and you’re not OK if you feel, or think, you’re sick.

It’s also not OK to try to make sick some normal state that we must accept.

Different is one thing. Different can be OK.  But suffering, dependent and ostracized are all bad.  You can be OK if you have a mental illness.  As long as you’re productively dealing with it.  As long as you’re not suffering, self-hating or alone.

So don’t tell me when I feel that way that I’m OK just the way I am.  I’m not.  But with a little bit of support and a lot of work, I can be.

You’re Not OK Just The Way You Are

George Hofmann

After much of a life spent in and out of hospitals, jobs, and relationships, George has spent the last dozen years living successfully with bipolar disorder 1. He teaches meditation as an adjunct therapy for mental illness, and writes and speaks about the therapies of meditation, movement, and meaningful work. Visit George at or join the Facebook group Practicing Mental Illness

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APA Reference
Hofmann, G. (2019). You’re Not OK Just The Way You Are. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 17, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jun 2019
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