By Ian Riccaboni
“It is OK to not be OK.”
Although it sounded like sage wisdom from the great Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, those words actually came from my father.
For days and weeks, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Repeated and unrelenting thoughts were peppering my 10-year old mind. I couldn’t articulate what was happening as hard as I tried. But my dad somehow understood, he somehow knew.
It was becoming OK to not be OK. My parents instilled the confidence in me to share my feelings. And when the time came where they knew that maybe an expert could help more than they were able, they helped me talk through my thoughts and feelings. That was the last time I felt anything like I am feeling now.
As it was then as it is now, it is OK to not be OK.
What I was going through was the discovery of the symptoms of what would be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I would learn from TV’s Marc Summers that he had it, too. He was the host of my favorite TV show, “Double Dare.” I wanted to be a TV show host because of him. And now, just a few months after I started getting help, I found out he has this new thing I just learned about, too.
My dad would tell me on a long drive from Fort McCoy, Florida to just outside Charlotte, North Carolina of the dreams he had about being a rock star and his near misses as his group opened up for some the 1970's biggest acts locally in the Lehigh Valley. But most importantly, he would tell me how he too went through a lot of the same things I had experienced. But, at the time, the diagnosis was not as well known and there weren't as many people who were willing to help.
That drive was in 2008. I was about to finish college and embark on a career in broadcasting. I was having a hard time getting motivated as an odd combination of anxiety and senioritis had me stuck in a rut just before I was about to board a plane back to New York City. But as he had done nearly 10 years earlier, he reminded me, it is OK to not be OK.
We learn a lot about ourselves when we are faced with adversity. There are some reading this whose situation has become increasingly more difficult to navigate because of the challenges created by the new normal that we live in. My family? We are lucky. My wife, Sarah, and our children, Zach and Nora, and I are all healthy. We have accommodating jobs that have a general understanding that child care options are limited while we work from home. But the grind of a work day that now seems to never end. And the most generous of accommodation for the kids being home wears us down. But still, it is OK to not be OK.
We want for nothing: Ring of Honor pays handsomely, my wife is a rock star at her job, and I maintain a day job in a senior position at a large healthcare company. As we are wrapping up Sarah’s and my student loans, we are beginning to save for our children’s future. But even if you are in the very best possible circumstances, it is OK to not be OK.
This is different. This is unlike anything almost anyone reading this has lived through. I knew it was different when my father, dropping off the very last of my items from his and my mom’s home found in the basement prior to their permanent move from Pennsylvania to Florida, maintained his six feet. I knew it was different when my father, a usual rock of emotion, sounded defeated, telling me he did not want to arrive before the kids went to bed because he did not want to disappoint them by not being able to play with them.
This is a time of difficult conversations. This is a time of difficult circumstances. It is OK to cry. It is OK to laugh. The Riccabonis are on the more fortunate end of this situation, but even if you are as well, it is OK to talk about it.
I miss my brother and his family. They just had a baby, Lucca, on Friday. Everybody is happy and healthy. We were supposed to be there in Orlando to meet the new baby as part of the Supercard trip. We will meet him soon. But my brother couldn’t even go in to be with his wife. He made the most out of the situation, though: he was able to stay and play with their son, Rocco, until they were able to all be together.
I miss my mom and dad. Last year, they sent about 10 photo albums home with Sarah, the kids, and I after we visited. I started to scan and digitize those this past weekend. As the memories rushed back, the push and pull of joy and sadness washed over me.
I tried to brave it, considering the circumstances of so many others who have exponentially larger challenges and sadness, but I could not contain my tears. So I talked to my wife. Then we Skyped my parents. It was OK to not be OK.
Over the years, I have interpreted my dad’s message as one full of hope and one that attempts to wipe pretenses of putting on a perfect face each day. Less than perfect is OK. Someone loves you unconditionally no matter what. They are ready to hear your story and it just might help to tell that person you trust what you are going through. By some weird, cosmic stroke of luck, I even was able to tell Marc Summers personally how much him telling the world about OCD meant to a 10-year-old trying to figure out what this thing was he could not articulate.
I am not OK right now, but it’s OK. I feel loved and supported and I have gained the confidence to not only share my feelings with my wife but you all, as well. I am hypersensitive and fearful that an errant rub of my nose at the grocery store, even while masked, will get my family sick. I am afraid that I will get too close to someone on a walking trail and bring the virus back to my family. And I am afraid by sharing this my very-much-on-the-positive-end-of-the-spectrum story, that this will have an unintended message.
But what I do hope is that in this unprecedented time, you find ways to realize it is OK to not be OK. It is OK if your situation is better than a friend or family member – do not feel guilty. It is OK if your situation is more challenging than a friend or family member – do not feel like a burden. Despite this common time, we are all experiencing different things.
What helped me was talking about how I was feeling with my wife and sharing this with you all. We are fortunate and want for nothing but things are definitely different. I encourage you to reach out to those that you love. Check in with them and if there is an opportune moment, share how you are feeling. It may help you. It is OK to not be OK.
Happy Wrestling – but only pre-recorded wrestling; we all need to stay inside right now.