No but really… How are you?
Sadly it feels as though this question has lost it’s real purpose.
Absent-mindedly I both ask and am asked this question daily yet rarely offer a response more than a yeah ok, you?. That’s as deep as it gets. This autonomous exchange has become a superficial social glue to loosely acquaint individuals without having to offer more than a mere acknowledgement that you and I both exist. It’s the same case with sorry; both words have lost their true value. I attach no criticism but am merely observing that we should be reaching out and listening to each other more genuinely. I know I’m not alone in my guilt; I hear & see it everywhere.
It was the other day I bumped into somebody I hadn’t seen for a while and we exchanged the stereotypical pleasantries. Yep, we were both OK and fine (!), yet I got a feeling that something was off as she had a vacant look in her eyes. Instantly I knew OK she was not. Typically I might have smiled and walked away, she did say she was fine? But instead I probed further to which she completely broke down. Reflecting to her some time after this particular instance she admitted feeling relief at being able to let it out, and admitted to never opening up before out of fears of being perceived a burden. Something that had never entered my mind (!) – and rather I didn’t want to overstep the mark in a somewhat professional capacity. This made me think about how I, well, we all, portray the onus and boundaries with opening up versus reaching out.
A decade ago the topic of mental health was utterly taboo. An admittance of any form of suffering was frowned upon and asking for help was alien. It is amazing to see society taking steps to reduce the stigma by way of public campaigns, workplace schemes as well as high profile people speaking publicly about their struggles, because with the increase in exposure and dialogue around mental health, the higher the chance the term becomes normalised and the stigma subsides. It affects us all. Let me repeat. It’s not a case of whether people fall into a neatly defined category of being a sufferer or not; wellbeing fluctuates, and life is hard sometimes.
Society’s once rigid mindsets are segueing into being much more liberal and open. I wish we could bulldoze the barriers and obliterate the stigma entirely but I think that will only come in time. It’s all a process, I often have to remind myself.
Reaching out is incredibly valuable and please be reassured that broaching the topic of mental health is not ill placed or inappropriate. A simple How are you doing? How are things going right now? with meaning is powerful. As long as you probe for a deeper response… I am glad I did with my friend because it allowed her time and space to simply talk and offload and to feel truly listened to.
In the same vein it’s also powerful to open up by being honest and transparent about your own feelings and emotions, because sharing your story helps others to normalise theirs. It empowers people to see that others have got through tough times and they aren’t the first to experience pain. At times when I’ve grappled with my own wellbeing I’ve felt incredibly grateful to the people who have listened to me in those moments.
I wanted to urge you to ask somebody how they are with an intent of truly listening, and do not hesitate to reach out if you think somebody is struggling because if they are feeling under the weight of the world then they sure as hell will feel unworthy of your time. Often we attempt to try to fix the problem so to speak when all that is needed was a compassionate ear and a platform for offloading. Be that sounding board. Trust me, you cannot nor should you even try to solve problems.
Offer somebody a kind knowledge that you care and will hold their hand through the storm; because nobody should have to weather the storm alone.
❤ Remember that the storm always passes. ❤
Thanks for reading x