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What I Really Mean When I Tell You 'I'm Fine'

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“I’m fine.”

The easiest explanation to any, “How are you?”

For some people, it means exactly that, they are fine. But for many others, that four letter word means much more than meets the eye.

I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I actually knew what it was. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and reveals itself in many different ways; mentally, emotionally and physically. For me, it attacks with the most power in my mind and thoughts. It is a constant and relentless stream of:

“You can’t do this.”

“What are they going to think about you?”

“You did everything wrong.”

“You’re not good enough.”

“They’re going to hate you.”

“It’s not perfect.”

“Why do you even try anymore?”

Most of the time I’m able to shove these thoughts down, and despite their heaviness, I put on a happy face for others. But when its gets too bad and I can’t hold them back anymore, they manifest as shaky hands, rapid breathing and severe panic attacks.

A friend of mine really hates the word “fine.” He seriously gets mad when I, or anyone else uses it. He hates it because when most people say they’re “fine,” they probably aren’t. And I think out of all his friends, I do this the most. I’m not saying he’s wrong for hating it; if anything I agree. But sometimes it’s the only reassurance I can give myself.

Generally when I say that “I’m fine” what I really mean is that:

I’m not fine, but I’m trying to be. I am actually really tired. I’m tired of having to hold myself together. I’m tired of feeling like a failure day in and day out. I’m tired of feeling alone and feeling attacked for not knowing how to express the darkness in my head. I’m tired of opening up to people, just needing someone to listen, and getting unwanted advice instead. I’m tired of ignorance. I’m tired of spending hours trying to sleep, only to be awakened every hour by my all too realistic nightmares, leaving me more exhausted by morning than I was at the beginning of the night. What makes it worse is that I can’t feel anything anymore. Neither happiness or sadness — nothing but the weight of my anxiety. I don’t want to keep fighting, but I know I have to. I know I can’t let this beast in my head win. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever. But it’s hard. It’s hard to fight when everything and everyone has made you feel like you’ve already lost. But I’m going to keep fighting all the same. I know I will be OK some day.

So, no, I’m not doing good. But I’m not letting the bad overwhelm me either. So I guess I’m just fine.

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Thinkstock photo via ValentinaPhotos

Originally published: September 19, 2017
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