The Most Difficult Question

I’m finding “How Are You?” the most difficult question to answer, along with versions like “How was your weekend?” and “How was your day?”

Usually, I  say “fine”, but what throws me is when I know the people asking genuinely want to find out because they care. I don’t want people to stop asking either. It’s an act of kindness and when they ask, I feel cared for.  But the question always stumps me for a while and it usually takes me a fair amount of thinking time to compose an answer.

I mean how do you answer “How are you?” when you’re anxious, depressed and suffering from PTSD. Some days are better than others, but saying “fine” or “great” isn’t  honest, and when people care about the answer, I want to be honest.

How do I honestly say how I am? It seems so complicated. I’m not okay to work, but I’m okay to sit with my laptop and write this post. I’m not great, I’m not terrible. But I still have this kernel of sadness inside of me, and if I turn my attention to how I feel, I start to notice and pay attention to it and it grows.

If I say I’m not fine, will people stop wanting to have anything to do with me because I suck the energy from every conversation with my negativity?

The question, “How was your day?”  should be easier, but it’s not.

Today, I met my friend Michelle for lunch at the Opera Bar, which is outside the Sydney Opera House, overlooking the harbour. Perfect for people watching on a sunny winters day. It was pleasant. I had the chance to catch up with what had been going on in Michelle’s life, and I appreciated the opportunity to share some of what’s been happening in mine. The company was good, so was the food. Everything was pretty much perfect.

It was a great day.

But, underneath it all I had this tight ball of tension in my stomach that grew and grew.

Michelle was talking about her work, and I started to think about how I hadn’t been at work. Report writing time is one of the busiest times of years for teachers and they’re doing it really tough. Yet here I am, not having to write reports, not working, not contributing any way. What right have I to be taking time off work?  It’s my overworked colleagues who need it, not me. I feel guilty and slack, and start to wonder how anyone could respect me because they’re all pushing through in spite of gruelling workloads, while I’m taking time out.

By the time our lunch had finished, I was feeling  sick and really sad. I wanted to cry.

But, as an observer, I can see that it was a lovely day, and I really did have a moment there where I was enjoying myself. So, did I have a good day or a good moment?

And that’s why I find the question so difficult to answer.


3 thoughts on “The Most Difficult Question

  1. Hi Corinne, Thanks for sharing here. Your posts are insightful and help me to understand the insider’s perspective – I have a friend who I met online nearly nine years ago who has been battling depression for most of 2014, and I feel bad for losing touch with him while it was happening. I found some of his blog posts the other day on his website and it helped me to understand and empathise with him. His advice for himself (and I’m not dishing it out to you BTW) in moving forward is “BE KIND TO YOURSELF” which I like because it can apply to anyone trying to live up to anything or get through anything. Just know that your interactions online, especially this afternoon’s banter about jargon edu-words have made me laugh out loud. Cheers, Graham.

    • Hi Graham, thank you for your kind words. I did enjoy our banter yesterday afternoon! Thanks for the words “Be kind to yourself”, I need reminding of that from time to time.

  2. That is a difficult question. When I was struggling I would usually respond with a half joking response like “still alive.” These days I’m more likely to say “not so bad today, or I’d be at home in bed.” I think it would be good if there was a way people show they care without forcing you to come up with some difficult response. Anxiety is particularly hard. Arthritis is simpler, if not easier (I never like talking about it) but anxiety is so hard to explain without it sounding like excuses or wimpiness. But you do deserve time off work, your symptoms are real and scary, and you are doing something about it, facing them with the counsellor, even though that is hard. ((hugs))

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