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When I Stopped Saying 'I'm Fine'

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I stopped saying, “I’m fine.”

When you struggle with a mental illness, whatever kind, there’s a feeling of shame that often accompanies it. There have been many early mornings where I found myself standing in the shower wondering why I couldn’t seem to function the way other people do — and how I got to be so weak, so incapable. I often would ask myself what was wrong with me and what I could do to fix it. I would try to dismiss the weight of inability and say to myself, “Get it together, Amanda. Everyone feels like this sometimes, don’t give in. Grow up.”

So, because of that core foundation of shame, I also adopted the habit of saying, “I’m fine” when I really, really was not fine. I wanted to be fine so badly I tried to force it. I would lie through my teeth in hopes that the more I said it, the more true it would be.

Until about six months ago.

It was a very typical night. My boyfriend and I were watching a movie and, regardless of how I appeared, I was riddle with anxiety. I was distant, terrified and overwhelmed. I was afraid. Of nothing. Of everything. There was no specific cause, it just was.

How do you explain something like that? What do you say when someone asks you what’s wrong, when there’s nothing specifically wrong, no rational reason for you to be feeling like your skin is the only thing holding you together?

You say, “I’m fine.” Because what else can you say?

So, as always, when my boyfriend gently asked what was wrong, I said, “I’m fine.” This time, he looked at me and said, “Honey, when you say you’re fine and you really aren’t, you’re lying to me. And that’s not the kind of relationship we want to build. No lies. Now, let’s talk about what’s wrong…”

That was convicting and the perfect thing for him to say. It revealed to me the reality of “I’m fine” and how we, as people, are so often apologizing for being human, fallible and imperfect. We say we’re OK when we aren’t because we don’t want to burden others with the truth. It’s easier to lie. Well, guess what? I’m not fine. I struggle. I need help. I have doctors and a therapist and a psychiatrist and I need medication. I will not be ashamed of that.

I am not a victim nor will I pretend to be. I expect the same things of myself I should expect: I expect to work hard, regardless of how I feel. I expect to take an active part in my own joy and happiness. I expect to work to improve my relationships with others. I expect myself to be a functioning adult member of society.

But, I need a little help to do that. And that’s OK. Never apologize for being human. Never lie because you’re ashamed of the truth. Because, in the end, it’s the truth that sets us free.

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 17, 2016
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