So I’ve spent a lot of time in self-isolation this month which has given me way too much free time to sit alone with my thoughts. This has definitely been a struggle and has unfortunately resulted in a huge deterioration in my mental health. However, it has also allowed me to become more self-aware and reflect on things. For example my apparent inability to be truthful when someone asks how I am feeling…(deep isolation thoughts lol)
This is something I’ve become very aware of over the past couple of weeks. Every time I’m asked how I am doing/feeling, I always seem to give the same untruthful answers of ‘fine’, ‘okay’, ‘alright’, ‘I’m just tired’ and these are so commonly just believed and accepted. Deep down I probably know it’s not true but yet that’s still the response I give. WHY??? Stigma? Not having the right words? Suppressing my true feelings? Probably a combination of all 3.
I think to some extent even I myself believe what I’m saying when I give these responses. I’ve kind of just learnt to suppress my feelings over the years and I don’t think I even know how I am truly feeling a lot of the time. I’ve learnt to simply ignore these feelings. I’ve had my feelings dismissed so many times that I think I just started to doubt them myself. If these so called ‘professionals’ were repeatedly telling me I was fine then I guess they must be right? They made me doubt my own feelings and distorted my perspective of how I viewed emotions…
Everyone has always just kinda accepted it and moved on when I’ve told them I’m ‘alright’. But recently my manager has actually been calling me out on it, saying my response ‘doesn’t sound convincing’. I think she knows me better than I know myself…She has made me stop and re-evaluate how I am actually feeling which I really appreciate. Maybe I am hurting a lot more than I realise but I’ve learnt to bury these emotions or consider them to be ‘not that bad’ because that is what so many doctors/counsellors led me to believe. I have been making an effort to try and be more honest about how I am feeling but I don’t think I’ve intentionally been lying for all these years. Perhaps I didn’t realise just quite how dishonest I was being, my perspective is just so distorted and I’ve been conditioned to see a moderate level of depression as feeling ‘okay’.
I’ve actually spent time after conversations recently reflecting on my feelings and why these classic responses seem to automatically leave my mouth, even when they do not at all describe how I am truly feeling. These responses don’t really mean anything to me, they are simply words, there to fill a silence, and allow the conversation to move on.
I think so often when people ask the question “how are you feeling?” they don’t really mean it, it’s simply a question society has made us ask regardless of whether we actually want to know. A lot of the time it seems the only acceptable response is a positive one. As such, we are so often faced with the difficult dilemma of whether to lie and say we are fine, or be truthful and run the risk of being called ‘negative’ or told to simply ‘cheer up’. It’s sort of a lose-lose situation really. You’re either a liar or you’re seen as negative, and the former is often seen as the more desirable option, especially as it is likely your lies may well be believed and no further questions asked. However, perhaps sometimes it would be better if further questions were asked. Sometimes these questions are needed to establish how someone is truly feeling and assist them in getting the support they need to work through these problems.
Whilst I’ve been particularly noticing it recently, this is something I’ve been guilty of for as long as I can remember. Despite often wanting to tell people how I’m truly feeling so they can help, the dreaded “I’m okay” always seem to slip out before I have a chance to stop it. This is something I really want to change, not just on a personal level but also more generally in society.
We need to NORMALISE BEING HONEST ABOUT OUR FEELINGS!!! People are not mind readers and therefore can’t help unless they know how you’re really feeling? And if you’re only willing to hear a positive response then maybe don’t bother asking because you’re clearly not willing to help.