ruokToday is R U OK Day. You can read all about it here and read Michael Goldman’s first post for the Diabetes Australia – Vic blog and his take on this important day.

I love this initiative because it gets us thinking about how people are feeling and gets us talking about mental health. There is still so much stigma associated with mental health issues. And add diabetes to the mix and its associated stigma and you have a double whammy.

I also love it because it’s not only about today. This may be the ‘flagship’ day, but the real aim of the R U OK Foundation is to remind people that checking in with our loved ones on a regular basis is a good thing to do. And I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to check in on loved ones with diabetes.

Diabetes is known as an ‘invisible illness’ and I can’t think of a better way to describe the everyday life with this condition. There is no outwardly obvious sign that I have diabetes. Unless you see me pull out my pump or check my BGL you wouldn’t know that I have a condition that requires regular monitoring and medicating.

If you look at me today, I seem pretty okay. I’m up and dressed and am wearing my regular red lippy. Thanks to a couple of coffees, I can string two words together. I look okay. And in all honesty, that’s how I am most days. But sometimes what you see doesn’t tell the whole story.

So often, when we hear about diabetes, we hear about the extremes. Whether we’re talking about complications or the horrific hypos it’s the extreme. But my life with diabetes isn’t actually about the extremes. Yes, I may have some minor retinopathy. Yes, I had a hypo a few months ago that resulted in me needing paramedics. Yes, all these things are scary. But people SEE these things; they know about them. And when people see things, they ask the question: ‘are you okay?’

Diabetes isn’t necessarily about the things you see. It’s about the everyday.

How many of us have heard at some time or another ‘Oh, I know someone with diabetes. It hasn’t stopped them doing anything?’ It’s great that may be the case. I am pretty sure that people I know say that about me ‘My friend Renza has diabetes. She’s fine – she works, has a kid, travels heaps, has a great boot collection, spends hours in cafes, bakes all the time etc.’ And all these things are completely true.

But there are days that even though I look fine, I’m not okay. The hypo I had at 2am means that I didn’t get back to sleep and I’m exhausted. And I lay awake stressing about my next ophthalmologist appointment and the terror of the inevitable cataract surgery looms in my mind.  Or, as I sit at my desk, I suddenly realise that I’ve been mainlining water all day so I check my BGL and it’s 22.5 and I have no idea why or the capacity to troubleshoot to try and find the reason. Or I’m just. Over. It.

And yet I look okay.

If you have a look at the resources on the R U OK site, there are great suggestions for starting conversations and the things to ask and look out for. I know it’s not easy. We’re afraid of what people will say or that we won’t know how to respond. We’re scared that the response to the question won’t be ‘Yep – all good’. We’re scared that we won’t be able to fix the problem.

But it’s not about offering solutions. Opening up lines of communication and giving others permission to really say how they are feeling is the aim of RUOK Day. For me, if things aren’t okay and I communicate that to you when you ask me how I am going, I don’t want you to fix it; I don’t want solutions. I just want someone to listen to me.

Ask the question. And ask again. Tomorrow, or next week or next month. Ask the question. Are you okay?