Right, I have to make a confession. I am a liar. Yes, I tell lies every single day. Telling lies to people I don’t care about, to my loved ones and myself. I lie for one reason though and one reason only.
Self preservation. That’s it, the only reason for the lies. I found out mid-way through 2019 that I had no choice but to lie to people.
I’m not talking about politician level lies, nor the bullshitter ‘My Uncle works at Nintendo’ style lies. These lies are prompted from the one question that causes a moments pause between the asker and myself.
“How are you?”
What is my response to this? Either “All good thanks”, “Yeah, not too bad”, “Could be better, could be worse”. My to the relief of the person asking the question.
This is a seemingly innocuous question and an equally innocuous answer right? So why am I bringing it up? Well there are a few reasons. One being it is easier to say the above, than it is to tell someone how I really am.
“Hey Brad! How’re you?”
“Well, on the way here I kept hoping something would happen that would kill me. I didn’t want to wake up this morning, feeling gutted I didn’t die in the night. I am drowning trying to keep afloat. Trying to make sure the kids aren’t exposed to my depression and don’t miss out on being kids due to financial situations. I live in a small 2-bed flat with two kids growing up and needing more room. There is less and less work and I am struggling more and more every day. My body is failing me, because I don’t care enough about myself to get healthy. I went through much of last week as a zombie. I have so many dark thoughts I scare even myself. How are you?”
I am not 100% sure. But I don’t think that works as a pleasant exchange between acquaintances does it? So the lies start. “Yeah, not too bad thanks”
It is something that I have done for many years now, on a daily basis. I have no issue with telling these lies. So why am I bring it up now?
Well, for all the right reasons, there is a movement to bring mental health into the open. It is being recognised as a legitimate thing that needs addressing. However what it also does is bring out the people who want to say the right things publicly, but don’t want to actually follow through.
What do I mean by that? It started with seeing a few posts around Facebook and Twitter. The person sharing one of those inspirational quotes (sans Minion for once). In this case it was about their door always being open if you want to talk about your mental health.
They got lots of likes, lot of comments telling them that it was good they were being there for someone. Yet when I approached them, they did all they could to avoid the subject. They din’t want to talk, there was a fear in their eyes when I started to attempt to open up.
A few incidents with others that had similar outcomes led me to see a pattern. In this new world, people will say things online to get internet credit amongst their peers. They can avoid it in real life but still look good to their wider circle.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying these are bad people, nor are they doing anything particularly wrong. I honestly think many of them have good intentions. They just don’t understand mental health properly and what effect it has.
I still get told ‘you need to just stay positive” or “stop trying to control the things that are beyond your control”. Those along with other similar positive messages. People still believe depression is something that can be turned on and off. Stay positive, you will soon not be depressed. Or changing your way of thinking is easy.
Giving up smoking is easy. Teaching yourself to think positively, or to focus on the right things is the exact opposite. Take this site as an example. I need various things to take it to another level (camera, mic, better PC, etc) but rather than thinking positively about what I can do to get them. There is instead a feeling of pointlessness. Why bother, you’ll only fail.
“When you get knocked down, you just need to get up again”. That is a favourite of mine. When I get knocked down in this state of mind, I am down for a long time. By the time I’ve managed to think about getting back up, any energy is completely drained. The last thing I actually want is to go again and be hit with potentially being knocked down yet again.
I am so jealous of people who can always look at the glass being half-full. Imagine being able to look beyond what can go wrong and focus on what can go right. Another of the lies I have told myself is that I can be that person…I tried. I cannot.
Where was I? Ah yes, those who say they want to be there. As said, they are also telling lies and again not intentionally so. They just don’t realise what would be involved with actually being there.
It requires I think, a more active role than supporting a friend or family member with a disability, or serious illness. The doctors and specialists will do the bulk of the work. You just support in ways that are a lot more obvious.
With mental health it is different. I don’t always want a shoulder to cry on, but sometimes I do. Don’t always need to be listened to. Sometimes I do. I don’t always need to be left alone, but sometimes I do.
How you are with me on the Monday, may not be what I need on the Wednesday. One Sunday I might be very chatty with you, happy to chat about all kinds of things and come across as happy in myself. The following weekend I may well be a shell with zero outward emotion. I may even look like I am in a stinking mood.
Try understanding how to react to that? I get it, there is no obvious way. If you knew how to deal with it, you’d be well paid and booking me in for a session on your couch.
The only thing that really rubs me up the wrong way is being told a door is open and that people are always there for me. That isn’t the case and it hurts a fair amount being told there is something there, when it isn’t.
So yeah, lies help us all. You’ll continue to ask “How are you?” and I’ll continue to say “Yeah not too bad thank you”
Oh and for the record. I am just as bad, as I really don’t think I could handle anyone opening up to me fully so when I ask “How are you?”, I too hope to hear “Yeah I’m fine thanks”