THE 'IT'S OK LIST' by Scarlett Curtis. I first wrote this list when I was nineteen. A manifesto of sorts. I stuck it on my wall and tried to look at it every day when the dark, twisted voices in my head inevitably came calling. I’m a lot more OK now than I was then. The thick, relenting depression that plagued me for almost a decade started to dissolve in my early twenties and for the last few years I’ve been doing everything I can to slowly but surely remind my brain that everything really is OK.
Recovery, like most things in live, has looked nothing like I thought it would. I spent years pinning all my hopes on this magical day when I would be ‘BETTER’, cured, fixed, not broken anymore. That day never came and I’m pretty sure now that it’s never going to come. My brain is my brain in all its beautiful, painful madness.
You can’t fix something that was never truly broken. It’s taken me long time to realize that.
We talk a lot in this book about the days when the depression and anxiety hits but it is also worth taking a moment to talk about the days when it doesn’t. When life was really dark I used to imagine all the HUGE and EXCITING things I would do once I recovered: climb mountains, run marathons, go clubbing till 6 a.m. It took me about five years to realise that I didn’t actually want to do any of those things. At all. Ever.
Today I woke up and I could feel my breath in my lungs. I was groggy and tired but not anxious or depressed. I made tea, stroked my cat, sat on the sofa, called a friend, went for a walk, did some emails, did some yoga, had dinner with my family, fell asleep. To sit on a sofa with a mug of tea and a group of friends is perhaps the most huge or exciting thing I could ever dream of. It’s something that at one point in my life I thought I’d never be able to do. It’s something magical.
Sometimes I miss it. That’s a hard thing to write. Sometimes I miss how bad it used to be. I’d built my ‘self’ around a wound and as the wound started to heal I lost the only version of me that I knew how to be. I don’t really know who I am without mental illness. Sometimes that scares me. Sometimes it feels exciting. Sometimes I try not to think about it.
If this book makes you feel anything, I really hope that it makes you feel like you’re OK just as you are. Some of the things you’ve been though are not OK. Some of the things your brain tells you aren’t OK.
But you, my dear, dear friend, are not alone. You never have been and you never will be. We are an army. An army of strangers standing behind you without judgement or shame.
We are here to tell you that how you feel is normal, who you are is wonderful. One day you’ll be sitting on a sofa and you’ll find yourself laughing; and for a second it won’t hurt, for a second you will just be there, in that moment, and, for a second, life will feel OK. Hold on for that second. If you don’t do it for you, then do it for me. I promise, I promise: it’s worth it.
The ‘IT’S OK’ LIST
It’s OK to wake up feeling like the world is about to end. Like you want to cancel every single plan that’s ever been made for the future and crawl back into bed.
It’s OK to think that this feeling is never going to end.
It’s OK that the feelings almost always gone half an hour later.
It’s OK that sometimes it doesn’t go.
It’s OK that some days are still very dark. That some weeks are still dark. That not everything in your brain is quite as perfect as you’d hope it to be.
It’s OK to cancel plans.
And then cancel again.
It’s OK to show up at a party and leave five minutes after you arrive. People usually don’t mind. And if they do mind it’s OK not to care. It’s OK if some people don’t like you. You don’t have to please everyone. Only yourself, and maybe your cat.
It’s OK to stumble home at 6 a.m.
It’s OK to try to drown out all the thoughts.
It’s OK to stay in bed all day.
It’s OK to need half an hour to mentally get ready for any social interaction.
It’s OK to be alone.
It’s OK to need time to calm down. To need time on your own. To need to take your time.
It’s OK to take pride I the little things, to smile for an hour every time you manage to have a real conversation. To celebrate a day without panic.
It’s OK to watch liking The Kardashians. It’s OK to be invested in their problems. It’s OK to care when celebrities get haircuts.
It’s OK to have conversations with your dog.
It’s OK if you hate your body. It’s OK if you hate your mind.
It’s OK to think things that aren’t real. It’s OK to hear voices. It’s OK to ignore them.
It’s OK to talk about it.
It’s OK not to talk about it
It’s OK to try.
It’s OK to fail.
It’s OK to go to therapy.
It’s OK to take medication.
It’s OK to go to hospital.
It’s OK to take the time you need to heal.
It’s OK to think that day is never going to come.
It’s OK to succeed and tell people when you succeed. It’s OK to brag.
It’s OK to hate art galleries. It’s OK to hate foreign movies. It’s OK not to have read a novel since Harry Potter.
It’s OK if your parents are your best friends.
It’s OK if your family doesn’t get it.
It’s OK to procrastinate. It’s OK not to finish. It’s OK to give up.
It’s OK to feel like none of it’s ok. To feel like it’s over every time you fail, every time you stumble. To not understand why it’s not better than OK by now.
It’s OK to keep try.
It’s all OK.
Book Club Questions
Do you talk about your mental health openly? If not, what stops you?
Has the way that we talk about mental health changed? How so, and is it a good thing?
What would you write on your 'it's OK' list?
BLUE! It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies) curated by Scarlett Curtis is published on 3 October (Penguin, £14.99). Buy it here.
Grazia Book Club is a new Sunday series, where we'll share an extract from a book that we're obsessed with and that we think you'll love. You can share your thoughts on the book by using #GraziaBookClub.