How many times have you pretended to be okay when you are crumbling inside? In my career as a mental health nurse, I have counselled many people over the years who are working through life’s less shiny moments.
The thing is when you are feeling down or in the midst of a personal crisis, responding to someone who greets you with a perky “hi, how are you?” Can be a difficult question. The asking of “are you okay” even if the enquiry is coming from a genuine place, can if you are going through a difficult time be a reopening of your wounds thus lengthening the grieving process. Because sometimes you feel its important to give an honest emotional answer, no matter how much doing so will cost you.
Sometimes when you do this and open up and are honest you are met by uncomfortable laughs and abrupt “yeah, life is rough, see you later”. This then results in you responding to the next person that ask with a “I am good, you?” Sort of response because you do not want to feel stupid or embarrassed again.
Suffering mental health issues, whether situational or chronic is debilitating enough without worrying about how to handle other people’s curiosity, even when the curiosity is well intentioned. Sometimes your hesitation at admitting you are in an emotionally fragile state, is what makes being confronted with this question torturous.
So how do you deal with this in a way that works for you?
1) Set boundaries- for example if you do not want to talk about your mental health with someone, make it clear. Tell people what support you need, and what support you do not need. Be clear that you are doing what is best for you.
2) Become aware how talking about your mental health will affect you, even with a trusted person.
3) Be clear of the intent of the person asking. Are they close to you, so they really care about you? Are you sure this person can be trusted with your intimate secrets and or do you feel uncomfortable. Do not feel obliged to offer more than a cursory response.
At the end of the day go within and do what is best for you.
And yes that response is perfectly okay.