I’m Not Fine, But I’ll Probably Say I Am When You Ask
How are you? Innocent enough to ask, but who really gives an accurate answer to that question?
“I am fine, alright, OK…”
Questions like these can go a really long way to open the door for truthful, more eye-opening answers:
- “how are you feeling?”
- “what is hard for you today?”
- “what is making you happy today?”
- “what is making you feel like you’re struggling?”
When I give a full answer, remember, it doesn’t even have to be that anything is particularly wrong for me to not be OK. At any given point in time, a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) trigger could be influencing my mood or state of happiness and overall sense of safety and security. In another moment in time, there could be no trigger at all, and I still just feel down. At another moment, I could just feel really emotionally drained and exhausted from all that goes on inside my head that is different than what the outside of me looks like. To make things more complicated, there are plenty of times where even though I know that I’m smiling on the outside, on the inside I still feel sad or like something is missing, or fear that something bad is going to happen.
If you have a loved one who has ever opened up to you about having depression or anxiety or any mental health struggle, be open to taking things a little bit deeper. Try asking more open-ended questions and give them an outlet to voice their true feelings. When they start to tell you about what’s really going on, please hold back on being critical, judgmental, condescending or argumentative. Sometimes just listening to what someone has to say makes things 100 times better for them and for your relationship with them.
Mostly, I guess what I’m saying is if you ask me how I’m doing and I say fine, alright or OK, it’s not that my quick answer won’t be true. It’s more that my answer is where I hope to get. See, I’m already used to what my brain is like, and the process I must go through to feel closure about certain topics, concerns and feelings. So when I say I’m fine, alright or OK, it’s not because I am in that moment, but because I know eventually I’ll get there, or at least to something close to it.
It may have taken years of learning about myself, years of counseling, years of challenges when I didn’t know better and sometimes medication. But even though so often I may not feel that I am OK, I’ve learned to have the hope that I could be, or I will be soon. It won’t be because my circumstances change, but eventually I can get to a place where not always being OK is sometimes also OK. In many areas, the things I’m worrying about will be OK. And in other areas where I can’t change things that aren’t OK, I learn to live with that and move through it the best I can.
The bottom line is I would love for the people closest to me to be able to hear that I’m not OK and still be comfortable enough with our relationship to hear what that looks like, sounds like and feels like to me. Loving someone through depression and anxiety means letting them not be OK, but also letting them work out their thoughts until they can get to a place where they believe they could be, while also loving them through all the in-between.
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