Why I Spend All Day Lying About Being OK
It’s almost as if, “How are you?” has become a rhetorical question. We ask, but do we really want to know the answer? Unless the answer is, “Great, everything is going great,” no, we don’t really want to hear the answer.
So what are we supposed to do when we have the wrong answer to that question? What you do is lie. You say, “I’m fine. Everything is good, kids are good, work is good, I’m good. Great, in fact!”
I’ve become a liar. I don’t consider myself a dishonest person, but I lie every single day. I lie to everyone. I lie to those closest to me and I lie to the clerk at the grocery store. I spend all day lying about being OK. “I’m good, how are you?”
I am not good and I’m not even OK. But I have no choice but to keep lying. Why? Because I feel like nobody wants to know I’m not OK. They don’t know what to do any more than I do. And people don’t like to be faced with situations where they don’t know what to do. So I keep lying.
I tried not lying last summer. I told the truth. I told my estranged husband, my mom, my sister, my kids, my friends that I wasn’t OK. And I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for eight days where the first order of business was to remove the underwire from my bra for fear that I might harm myself with it.
I don’t blame anyone for the fact that I ended up in the hospital. Before I was a patient, I had no idea that when you get sent to a psychiatric hospital (or at least the one I ended up in) you don’t get the help you need. You get sharp objects confiscated, you have to remove the drawstrings from your clothing, you are given coloring pages to pass the time, you get woken up every two hours during the night with a flashlight in your face, you live in a room with the windows covered and are only let outside when the nurses feel like letting you outside, and the highlight of the day is “activity time’”when you get to make bracelets out of large plastic beads that are often found in preschools.
The one thing I needed the most, I didn’t get. I needed help and I needed it desperately. I begged for it. I asked every day to talk to a therapist. You’d think the place would be filled with them, and you’d be wrong. There is one psychiatrist who sees every patient in the entire hospital for about five minutes each day. He doesn’t offer therapy, he doesn’t ask you how you are or tell you how to get better. He looks at your chart and sees that when you got spit on by another patient that morning you asked at the nurses’ desk for anxiety meds and that means that you are not yet stable enough to be released. File closed, see you tomorrow, maybe. If he gets tied up with too many intakes you might not see him until the day after.
With so many high profile suicides in recent years, we have all become “suicide aware,” and we know what to look for in our friends and family. We know we need to check in with our friends and family members who are struggling. And we know that when they say that they aren’t OK, we need to do something. It’s just that there is no good “something” available.
My doctor, my therapist and every other single person I have walked with on this path through the world of mental illness tells me to immediately go to the ER if I feel like hurting myself. Seems like solid advice. But I tried that. And after two stints in the psychiatric hospital, three rounds of IOP (intensive outpatient program) and six months of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy where each week I had two hours of skills training and one hour with my individual therapist) I am still not OK. The only difference is that now I know not to tell anyone I’m not OK. And as an added bonus, I also have a case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and have regular nightmares about being locked in a mental institution without any options for getting out.
I wish I knew what to do when I’m not OK. And I wish there was another viable option for making me feel better. Because now I know all too well what doesn’t help when I say that I’m not OK.
Follow this journey on Dispatches From the Edge of Sanity.
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Getty image via Mary Jirovaya