You know that time you’re at the doctors, sitting in the waiting room, picking up any magazine so you don’t have to look around and make eye contact. Reading all the posters on the walls and scouring any old leaflet just so you don’t have to communicate with anyone. Then. That time. Invariably someone will walk in and say hey, how are you?
Fine thanks. Spouts your involuntary response.
How are you? You say, because that’s what we do. I’m good, comes the ridiculous lie. You’re both at the doctors, you’re both not fine or good.
I read an article by the singer Lulu today, here’s a short excerpt (thank you The Guardian) …. “I’ve been afraid my whole life. Afraid of everything. Afraid to reveal myself. Afraid that if you knew me, if you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me”.
I felt guilty reading it, I kind of felt betrayed. Lulu the chirpy smiley singer living a life of utter anxiety and we didn’t know.
Why would we?
She seemed ok.
It reminded me of a brave conversation I had recently that began in the same way as that waiting room (I’d hate anyone to be identified so I’ll keep it vague). How are you, I said. Better now, she replied, and went on to explain the roller coaster ride her life had suddenly become through events that could not be controlled. She was brief, concise and without any want of pity. She wasn’t ok. She’d had a scary time but she was getting to ok. It was so honest.
How are you? She said in return.
I say, better thanks…..I’ve been quite anxious of late but I’m getting better. The conversation would be so normal had we been talking about a cold or the flu but we were talking mental health, it was liberating. It was true.
I’m an advocate of honesty about illness, particularly mental health because the more it’s normalised the more people will surely feel they can ask for help or just talk about it. It’s not easy breaking the taboo but unless you want to be a Lulu living fifty years of fear in secret then the alternative of honesty has to be healthier?
We’re not talking all doom and gloom, how are you can be ….I’m fabulous thanks but prepare yourself for a different response or for giving a different answer sometimes.
We’re not all ‘fine thank you’ all the time and the sooner we can admit this the quicker we’ll get to being fine, thank you.