What I Actually Mean When I Say 'I'm Good'

As I drove to work today, I imagined someone asking me, “How are you doing?”

The response I give to this question and the response I expect is, “I’m good, thanks.” These are, after all, my co-workers. What I realized, though, is “I’m good” is always my go-to answer to the question. It’s the answer I give to everyone. As someone who battles both major depression and generalized anxiety, I wonder what reaction I would receive if I answered the question honestly. Not to everyone, just those close to me. Here is my truth behind “I’m good.”

“I’m good.”

There are days when this answer is appropriate. The depression and anxiety have lightened up enough for me to enjoy life. I feel capable and confident. I can smile and make conversation. I may even be happy.

“I’m tired.”

Some days it is all I can do to drag myself out of bed. “Tired” does not begin to fully describe the exhaustion I feel. I am not only physically tired, but mentally and emotionally tired. It even takes enormous effort to put on a smile and answer the question.

“I’m in pain.”

The pain I feel is not only emotional pain, although that exists. My depression also manifests itself physically. I experience frequent headaches, stomach aches and temporomandibular (TMJ) pain from clenching and grinding my teeth.

“I’m panicky.”

My anxiety disorder comes with panic attacks so severe I feel as though I am dying. My heart races, I sweat, my stomach feels as though it is dropping. Sometimes there is a reason for panic attacks, but sometimes they come out of nowhere.

“I’m depressed.”

There are days when the depression fully envelops me. I feel hopeless, helpless and worthless. Tears are frequent, though I’m good at hiding them.

“I’m dying inside.”

I may not be experiencing suicidal thoughts, but inside my head, it feels like the pain and tiredness together are simply too much to bear. I do not have plans to harm myself, but it feels like my mind is attempting to kill me.

“I’m suicidal.”

On my worst days I cannot convince myself life is worth living. I feel as though those around me would be better off without me.

People — myself included — ask “how are you doing?” as a courtesy. I hear it at work, on the phone and from my loved ones. Invariably I answer “I’m good” even to those closest to me.

Sometimes “I’m good” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say I’m good and I start to feel good. What I need to learn is how to honestly answer the question when it is put to me by someone close.

So please, continue to ask, “How are you doing?”

In some situations it is just a common courtesy. However, if you’re asking the question of someone close who battles mental illness, be willing to ask how he/she really is. Be willing to hear an honest answer and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Your genuine concern and caring might help lighten someone’s load.

If you are someone like me who battles mental illness, continue to find a good support network of people you trust and who care about you. When one of those people asks “how are you doing?” be open to answering the question honestly.

There are people in our lives who truly do care and want to know how you are doing.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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