How many times have you automatically answered "I am okay" to the question how are you? Without even thinking. Without properly taking a moment to pause and question whether you really feel okay. Or openly admitting that recently you may not have been feeling yourself. It has always been obvious to me that we avoid talking about mental health and difficult conversations as to how we really feel, but I suppose never as much as now. Coronavirus has isolated us a lot and made it so much easier to lie, especially because a lot of our communication is now through a screen. It is so easy to type the words "I am fine" on your phone whilst actually crying your eyes out.
I am not typing this to guilt-trip anyone, but more as a way to encourage you to reflect and reach out if you need it. To think twice before you automatically answer I am okay to the question how are you. To also be be involved in giving others space to open up to you by asking how they are more than once.
I noticed that I often have a template response to the question how are you of "yes I am good" or "I am okay" even if I don't feel myself in that moment. It is why I often ask the question twice with my friends to try and make sure that I am giving them space to express themselves if they want to. To let them know that I am also there if they need help. Give them the room to say something other than the automatic response we all seemed to be trained to give: "I am okay".
It is so normal to struggle. It is normal to feel down from time to time. Yet when it comes to opening up about it so few people do. I am guilty of it too. I try and look out for others and reach out to them to check in on them because I know how often on the exterior what we paint is just a mask. We present a seemingly fine version of ourselves because that seems more acceptable. It was not until relatively recently where I truly started to pause and think why am I answering with "I am okay" to the question how are you when I am not. Instead of answering straight away with an automatic response, why are we not using that time to reflect on how we really feel? Take that opportunity to move away from mindlessly carrying on without considering whether we are genuinely doing good mentally. Or just openly showing everything we have been hiding.
So how are you really? For me, the answer is I am struggling, but still carrying on - a lot in my life seems to have been turned upside down. But it is okay to admit that you are not going through the best time of your life. We keep shying away from really important conversations for fear of making things awkward. But it does not have to be awkward. We have all experienced pain in some form, we have all felt down some days. We have all felt not okay at some point in our life. When you don't feel yourself is the time to connect - my closest friends have been made in some of the most difficult points in my life. As much as it sucks feeling vulnerable, opening up when things are not going the way they should is powerful. Answering truthfully when you are not fine shows your most human side - a side we all have and can all relate to if only we can learn to show it when we need to. It is okay not to be okay.
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