How many times do you say “I’m fine” and actually mean it? If you’re like me, then basically never. This post explains my blog’s name and also explains the forever conflict I go through on a daily basis when someone asks “How are you?”
When I was in grade one (yes grade one…like…I was six years old) I often had panic attacks in class. I didn’t know how to explain them and I didn’t really know what was happening. All I knew was that I felt nervous but I didn’t know why.
One day, right before an assembly (ah, the dreaded school assemblies where 500+ rowdy kids all squish together on the gym floor for an hour forced to listen to some presentation or announcement) I was nervous about sitting beside some boy who had thrown-up right beside me during our last assembly.
“Are you okay, Lauren?” My teacher asked.
What I wanted to say: “No, of course I’m not okay! I’m a six-year-old with severe anxiety, and last time I sat beside Nick, he almost threw up on me! Please don’t put us in alphabetical order again, please! I’ll do anything. Actually, you should just let me stay behind in class. I would love that. I would be totally okay with it.”
What I actually said: “Yep, I’m fine.”
When I was in grade four, I saw a psychiatrist. Not a psychologist – a psychiatrist. The doctors that prescribe meds. My parents didn’t realize this at the time, so off I went to the see him. (Note: My family is not anti-medication. But at this point, I was only 9-years-old and my parents wanted to see if therapy worked before putting me on meds).
I walk into the room. The guy is nice, but he intimidates me. He pulls out some puzzles. He asks how I’m doing.
What I wanted to say: “I am SO. NOT. OKAY. I just came from school, and guess what, I’m only in grade four! You know what my friends are doing today? They’re home doing their homework. They’re outside skipping rope. They’re off to soccer practice. They’re playing in the park. And here I am, shaking and panicking in a psychiatrist’s office.”
What I actually said: “I’m doing fine today.”
When I was in graded seven, some girls at my middle school spread a rumour that I was a lesbian because I had never had a boyfriend (seriously though, WHAT?) I just brushed off the lesbian thing, but I started worrying there was something wrong with me because no boy had ever wanted to date me.
This fear followed me into my high school years. When I was in grade eleven, a guy I really liked cancelled our movie date…and a few weeks later had a new girlfriend.
“Man, that’s rough. Are you okay?” A mutual friend asked.
What I wanted to say: “How could I possibly be okay? What a huge blow to my ego. What is so wrong with me that he chose that girl over me? Those girls in middle school were probably right about me…I’ll never find a boyfriend. I’ll be alone forever. I’ll never have a boyfriend or get married or have a family. No one will ever like me.”
What I actually said: “Oh, that? Nah, I’m fine.”
A few months ago, I started dealing with depression on top of my anxiety. I was visiting my parent’s house for dinner one evening. I am terrible at hiding how I feel, but I didn’t want to explain to my family what was going on at the dinner table.
The conversation went like this…
“Lauren, you look upset. What’s wrong?” Mom asked.
“Nothing, I’m fine.”
“Well that’s clearly a lie. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I am fine.”
“Lauren…just be honest with me.”
“I. Am. Fine.”
“I’M FINE! STOP ASKING!”
When you end up yelling “I’M FINE!” at someone, that’s probably the biggest hint you are, in fact, not fine.
The fact that I exploded into tears right after that outburst probably gave it away too.
The easiest answer is always “I’m fine.” It’s the easiest answer to give to your parents, to your siblings, to your friends, to your boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife. It’s the easiest answer to give to your boss or your co-workers or your pastor or your mentor.
But it’s not the best answer. If you are not fine, please, tell someone.
If I hadn’t told literally everyone in my life about my depression, I wouldn’t have the support I so desperately needed through this time.
It’s fine to be not fine. But tell someone. Please.