Are you okay?

I’ve often had people ask if I am okay. It should be no surprise that I hate this question with a passion that’s only matched by my own feelings of inadequacy.

What happens if I say I’m not okay? The immediate reaction is either some kind of apology or trying to fix the problem. People don’t like feeling inadequate or helpless. Their unease becomes my responsibility to fix, lest they spend more time making my life worse with their questions, useless advice, or worse, platitudes.

I wouldn’t mind so much if people knew just what they were asking. Asking if someone is okay is a huge responsibility. Because if they’re not, you better be prepared to listen and accept what you’re about to hear.

Less than year ago, if I answered “Are you okay?” honestly, I would have told you that I want to die every day I’m alive. That I want the pain to stop. When you’re confronted with that, there’s nothing you can do to lessen my pain in that moment beyond just listening.

You can’t fix my pain with words. You can’t just hand me off to a suicide hotline. You can’t take me to the hospital because I’m not suicidal enough to be admitted. (And I don’t need another bill I can’t pay.)

If listening isn’t enough and you truly want to help, then buckle down and HELP. Help me research psychiatrists or therapists1, help me make phone calls, help me make sure I get to appointments, etc.

Trying to get in with a psychiatrist is so fucking hard. It took me 3 months to get up the nerve to push past my anxiety to make the first phone call and then I had to leave a voicemail. I hung up because I couldn’t talk. A week later I managed to leave a voicemail. Then I had to wait for a call back. Half of them didn’t call back. Half of those that did told me they couldn’t take me. When I did find someone that would accept me, I couldn’t get an appointment for three months.

For weeks, I had to use all the energy I had calling for help to soulless machines, knowing that call would end in rejection.

I wish someone could have helped me. It would have saved me six months of unbearable suffering.

This is a lot of effort, more than most people are ready to do. But there is one thing you can do and it’s really simple. Just listen and accept. Don’t try to fix it. It won’t feel like you’re doing anything but believe me, it’s probably the best thing you can do. I will understand if you don’t try to do more. I will appreciate not having to deal with your feelings about how I feel.

  1. If you’re in the US, start with

What does it mean to be furry?

What got you into it?

I attended a furry convention in October 2013 out of curiosity. I had seen the CSI episode on furries but I’d been interested in furry artwork since I’d discovered the internet some ten years earlier. 

How does it feel to be furry?

You belong to a community of people who share your interests. In a lot of ways it’s easier to make friends. It’s a rather gregarious group with a different set of social rules. As one news station said, a hug is the furry shake hand. As a tactile person, it fills a void I feel living in the rest of society. 

What type of joy does it bring you?

I remember being six and feeling a “spiritual” connection with wolves. This connection has stayed with my entire life. I find beauty in anthropomorphic artwork. Humanity, with all its flaws does not appeal to me but in The Other, I found a more complete existence. Properly done, the blend of animal and human in artwork feels real to me, alive. To imagine myself being that brings a fulfillment I don’t fully understand. It tells a story I want to engage with. 

This feeling deeply inspires my writing. However, this isn’t something that consumes my life. There is a stark separation between this ideal and reality. 

When I go to a convention put on a costume, I am still firmly in reality. All I am doing is hiding myself behind a character so I can connect with others in a way I can’t connect with them in person. My costume is far more attractive and interesting than I am. While I play that character, it brings joy and happiness to myself and others around me. It is the most real thing I do. It is the feeling of being right, belonging, and sharing a deep connection. If you’ve ever shared grief at a funeral, this is that feeling, only with a depth of joy instead of sorrow.