Anxiety Makes It Hard for Me to Answer This Common Question
“How was your day?”
It’s a relatively innocuous question for most people. For me, having dealt with anxiety and depression for most of my life, it’s a question loaded with negative connotations and an overwhelming feeling of dread.
When I was younger I didn’t mind the question too much. As I grew older, and especially when I started high school, my social anxiety and depression became more debilitating, sucking the will out of me to talk about anything about myself. I didn’t bother making an effort to communicate, something which frustrated and worried my parents and friends to no end. Even now, at the age of 24, that question triggers anxiety, fear and perhaps the strangest feeling of all, resignation.
There’s a number of reasons why I have difficulty answering that one seemingly simple question. One is exhaustion. In high school, when my moods were more prone to fluctuate, my parents and friends thought I was angry at them or hiding something when I didn’t respond to certain questions like, “How was your day?” My thought process usually was, Why would I want to relive a day usually full of anxiety and stress? The last thing I want to do is expend what little energy I have talking about my day, or even talking in general. Even on happy or productive days, I feel discouraged from sharing anything. The retelling drains me, so I try to say as little as possible.
Another reason is futility. I have perfectionist tendencies, and when asked about my day, I think of all the details and events I experienced, but have no ability to describe in a manner that would do justice to them. If I can’t accurately talk about my day, why even bother? Just giving a plain description versus a vivid one doesn’t suit me either, so normally I just respond, “It was OK” and try to leave it at that.
My chronic depression is the sole root of my feeling of resignation when faced with answering that question. I think, My day isn’t worth talking about because I am worthless, and everything I do or experience is also worthless. I think, No one really cares how my day went. They’re only asking out of common courtesy. No matter how ridiculous those thoughts are, my depression convinces me those thoughts are the truth, and I abide by them even when I know it’s not right.
The fear that question evokes is tied to my social anxiety. If someone asks me that question first, and I respond, then I’m obligated to ask how that person’s day was. What if that person drones on and on and I have to expend more energy in remaining engaged in the conversation? On the other hand, if I don’t make any effort at all, that person will think I’m being rude or disrespectful, when in reality, I’m just afraid. It’s a vicious cycle of overthinking, one I’m still trying to reckon with.
As I’ve become more aware of my mental illnesses, I’d like to believe I’ve gotten better at answering that question, or at least more honest. Living with my partner of two years has certainly challenged me to participate in conversations outside my comfort zone. I think I’ll always struggle with that question, but I’ll keep making an effort to overcome the mental habits restraining me.
Do you also struggle with this question or any other socially common questions? How do you normally respond to this question? What helps you answer this or other questions?
Unsplash photo via Bruno Cervera