I think we all have this conversation every day and we go away having no idea how the other person really is. It’s an English pleasantry, a well-rehearsed and ritualised exchange ingrained into our lives. Every time I have this conversation, I say I’m fine. The thing is, I’m not.
It can be so hard to have that conversation, to say, actually, I’m not ok.
The thing is, I assume that the person asking doesn’t really want to know. They aren’t really asking, they’re being polite, right? And even if they really want to know, am I supposed to talk about it here; in the office, in the supermarket?
I have suffered from anxiety and depression on and off since my teens. Now I’m almost 40. I have a career. I’m a senior manager, the breadwinner in my household. People rely on me and I have responsibilities both at work and at home. I am strong, I am reliable, I am there for the people that need me.
I am also lost and I am tired. But I don’t say this.
The thing is, I worry, and in that worry I feel hopeless and helpless. My thoughts are dark and full of fear. If I tell you how I feel then you will worry too and I can’t stand the thought that you will feel the way I do and that it will be because of me. So I say nothing, and the moment is lost.
However, the conversation doesn’t have to go like that. What about if we ask, ‘how are you really?’, ‘do you want to go for coffee and have a chat?’ ‘How about we have an honest conversation in a safe place?’
I can only wear my mask for so long. If you ask twice, there’s a good chance I’ll let it slip and you just might be able to help me to find the light again.