Don’t worry; I’m fine 

It sounds believable, right?  And often, it’s the truth.  But other times, it’s not much but a passable cover story.

Sometimes I’m not fine, but if I were to want to elaborate further, how would I do that?  What would/could I say?  How do I begin to explain?  

Sometimes I don’t know how to decipher the aberrant information coming into my brain.  It’s jumbled static.  Most of us have seen that black-white-gray “snow” on TV that occurs when there is no signal.  How would that be explained to someone who’s never seen it?  Theory of Mind issues are bidirectional.

It’s cliché to say that words cannot describe something, but what does one say when that’s actually the hard reality without sounding trite and unimaginative, leaning on well-trodden phrases?

It’s hard to fake a smile and convincing reassurances, but it’s harder yet to nail down and share what’s often going on inside.

And then, most personal information is appropriately doled out on a need-to-know basis anyway.  I’ve often found it challenging to determine my personal security clearance levels; who gets to know what?  Who is privy to which bits of information?  To whom should I disclose what?  To tell or not to tell: that is the (seemingly impossible) question.

How much is too much?  How far is too far?  In a diagnostically-stereotypical show of “black and white thinking”, my style of interaction is rather binary; I either keep to myself or I open up all the way, not knowing where to stop, not having yet been able to figure out that it’s OK to stop part-way, not realizing that sometimes the basic info is good enough.  Because in my world, it’s like Yoda has perched himself on my shoulder; “do or do not; there is no try”.  And apparently, this applies to those bum-sniffing, getting-to-know-you conversations, too.

And then there’s the issue of timing.  What might have been inappropriate to share a month ago is suddenly OK to confide now.  The goalposts are fluid, and they drift with time, making it all the more difficult to draw The Line.

I have an extensive resume of failed interactions, only detected as failures when the telltale glazed expression appears on the face of the other person.  Of course, by then, it’s too late; they already think I’m a weirdo, and I can’t stuff the excess words back into my mouth.  There are things you can’t un-say.

It has taken me an embarrassing length of time to figure out that when people ask how I am, my answer should indeed depend on the person doing the asking and the depth of our relationship.  My partner has the highest “security clearance”, obviously eligible to know the most.  Next come my best offline friends, of whom I’ve known the longest.  Next comes my WordPress family, who reads, nods, listens with little-to-no judgment because they, too, have often Been There and wrestled with the same or similar conundrums.  My parents rank somewhere in there, but there are bits that y’all know that they do not, because I’ve often hit (unexpected and wholly unpleasant) stone walls when trying to confide in them.

Y’all are privy to the personal train-wreck that was my 2017, my massive cleanup effort and about-face that have been my 2018, and most other bits.

I’ll take this time to assure you that no, I haven’t been ignoring you; I really haven’t been on WP as much except to pop in here and there to do at least the bare minimum of checking notifications every few days, hoping to catch (but not always succeeding in catching) them before they fall off the notifications list.  The truth is that I’ve been trying to reconstruct various areas of my life, which has proven to be a more intense expenditure of energy and time than I had anticipated.

Whoops.

But it succeeded in our bank account remaining (barely) in the black, a new mental health restoration effort, some renewed bonds with some offline friends who might’ve thought we’d fallen off the face of the earth, and a potential position in a Masters degree program.  Because that’s probably the depth of information that I think I’m OK to share with y’all (and that goes pretty deep; there isn’t much left for me to tell).

Someone on the street, however, might see my face scrunched up in what might appear to be something amiss (but is likely more of a case of deep thought), they might ask me how I am, or they may ask me what’s wrong.  It took me that embarrassingly long time to realize that they aren’t necessarily looking to know about my 2017 nightmare backstory, nor my 2018 mental health rescue efforts; even the likelihood of degree program acceptance, while safer, is likely too deep to go with a perfect stranger.  And the depression/motivation struggles, I’m sure, are certainly out of bounds!

So to them, “I’m fine”.

And, strangely enough, for the first time in a while, that statement might just hold some truth.  🙂

***

(Image Credit: Laura Iverson)

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62 Comments

  1. Certainly an interesting (and quite difficult) one when asked how we are or what’s up if our faces give away that something isn’t okay – I find that “I’m fine” is a default response for me too, as it is for many. x

    Liked by 5 people

  2. “It has taken me an embarrassing length of time to figure out that when people ask how I am, my answer should indeed depend on the person doing the asking and the depth of our relationship. ” Hehe 🙂 It’s quite sad that a somewhat meaningful, pertinent question has become the go-to icebreaker. “How are you?” has lost it’s value because of this. That said, when talking to someone who you have a deep relationship with, it can be a valuable question indeed 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Yes, I have this problem, particularly the binary all-or-nothing thinking about who I can tell things to. I have over-shared with people and I have probably under-shared with people who would have still accepted me if they had known more. I have probably lost more potential friends with the latter than the former.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I hear you, friend. It’s always been a tough play to call for me. And it’s always been painful to lose friends, too. I feel for you 💕. I always went the other way, sharing too much and then they thought I was weird and ghosted me or otherwise decided not to interact with me anymore. Cue the embarrassment 🌺. I’m still trying to find my middle ground 💓

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These days I find that ‘fine’ is the simplest answer to give so that I can get away more quickly. Even the briefest of conversations can be overwhelming. Also, I take the view these days that most people are too busy to want to know how I am (I disclude my family from this assumption). In the past everybody got all the info on how I was no matter how glazed over they became. Also if I met someone new they got my life story whether they wanted it or not 😆
    I don’t know if it’s just around where I live but I didn’t hear it till we moved here… the greeting of ‘Alright’. It took me a while (like four years!) to realise it just meant hello! 😆
    I happy you are ok Laina. It sounds like you have a lot going on 🙂
    💕😘💐🌼❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hiya dear one! 😊. So wonderful to see you! I agree – I find conversations (especially those about basic topics with people I don’t know well) very overwhelming, too. And then the cognitive fatigue afterward! Do you experience that, too? And oh yeah, that glazed look! I (finally) know that one all too well. I’ve only learned to recognize it in the past few years though! Hehe I never knew when to stop, either, so they got my life story, too lol. Because hey–any tiny detail could be important! And I never knew which ones to share and which ones not to, so I would disclose everything lol. I’ll have to try that “alright” thingy! 😂👍🏼❤️

      Yeah, it’s a crowded scene, here in my brain lol. But it’s a good crowd, positive stuff for once! I’m game lol. I hope you’re doing well, too? (!) 💝☮😘🍀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have just been trying to explain to Geordie’s teachers this exact thing. Sometimes he knows he’s ‘not fine’ but does not know how to express this (the TV static) or to what extent he can express it. I need to show them parts of what you’ve written and hope they may have a better understanding of the turmoil in his head upon being asked the seemingly simple (but quite the opposite) question “How are you?” or “What’s wrong?”

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Its so good to hear some news of you….. and its so true we need to be discriminating with who we share with it may take some time and practice and quiet a few ‘fails’ to know who you can be real and open with…..that is why this forum is so wonderful as it gives us a place to be real and know others struggle just the same…<3

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hiya luv! So good to see you too! 😍. You’re absolutely correct – especially about the taking time and practice and multiple fails to figure out who to be real and open with 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Wonderful way to put it! 😁. I’m so happy you’re finding this a safe space; I love it that people feel they can be their true selves here. That’s entirely awesome 🤗💖🌟💖

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Girl, you got me blushing over here 😍😍. Thank you so much for saying this!! Wow! 🤗. I hear you, too! I’m thinking of maybe organizing some kind of get-together at some point in the future, because I’d love to meet y’all in person too! That would be utterly amazing 😊💗☮💙

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I say “I’m fine” or “good thanks” for two occasions. They are strangers, or I know we’ll have a longer-than-my-usual conversation.
    At some point I give them a snapshot of my news and ask them again how they are.
    I hope thats not manipulative. I just don’t see the point of a lie or stock standard responce.

    Liked by 5 people

                  1. I love the unit. Its on a beautiful, peaceful, suburbian street.

                    Its an audio podcast, and yep, he’d probebly wake up at the intro music 😃

                    I don’t want to pry in your personal affairs, but am happy we reconnected 🌼🌻

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Oooh! I’m so happy for you! It sounds quite peaceful 😍

                      I’m happy we’re connected too! 🤗. My 2018 has indeed been different from my 2017, which is a blessing. 2018 has already shown me some challenges, but overall it’s been really positive. I’ve been kind of a recluse online lately, but more active offline, which I’ve needed to be; offline demands beckon frequently, such as the office and the likelihood of going back to school very soon 👍🏼. I’ve also gone through a few dark times, most of which are likely residual from last year, but some are newcomers that need to be dealt with 💞. Alexithymia seems to interfere with my ability to tell whether or not everything truly is ok, but at least I think it is, so that’s probably good (?) 😉😁💗

                      Like

                    2. I’m soo glad to hear you’re considering a Masters again. Its great to hear you’re busy with your practice too. I hope the patients are appreciative.

                      I wouldn’t know how to comment on Alexithymia.

                      You sounds like you have some direction and purpose which makes me feel better 💗

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Thank you so much, Spirit Sister! I really appreciate your kind words 😍. Yep, 2017 was like a wandering lost in the desert. I think I’ve picked up a compass now, which does feel good. So early to say much, but time will tell, I reckon 😁💟. I’m happy that you’re happy! 💖🌟

                      Like

  8. Its good to see that you are coming to terms with yourself. I can understand some of your feelings I personally am not a smiley person, it doesn’t mean I’m not happy more that I don’t go round grinning like an idiot for no reason!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree wholly! 🙂 My face muscles actually get tired smiling, if I do it for too long lol. Also, I can’t really relax too much if I’m concentrating on smiling because I’m worrying about what people will think of me if I don’t. And I’m with you – just because I’m not smiling doesn’t mean I’m cranky! I can be very happy and content on the inside, even if it doesn’t show on my face. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I can SO relate to the extensive resume of failed interactions. Mine is extensive as well. I find it so hard to know what to say, when, how much. When I was younger I didn’t say enough – now I pretty much always say too much. Argh!!
    It’s always nice to know I’m not alone.
    I need to read back on your story through 2017 since I haven’t been in the loop for very long. Always nice to read your thoughts 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. So good to see you, Laina! I almost sent you an e-mail to make sure you’re okay, but then I thought, no, she’s probably just busy with other things to be on WP much. But maybe I would have been a better friend if I had contacted you? And they say the internet makes interaction easier!
    Anyway, I hope that your positive 2018 continues. I’m still up and down, completely snowed under some days, others I can dig my way out and take a breath. Fortunately social rules here in the UK don’t demand “fine”, you can say something a bit more subdued, like “not too bad” or, if it’s really bad, “mustn’t grumble”. I usually say “yeah, alright” to colleagues I’m not close to. To those I’m close to I’m completely honest and say if I’m feeling rubbish. They have rubbish days, too, so they understand.
    This month I have taken a few first tiny steps towards something which, if it comes off, will completely change my life (job, place of residence, everything). You see, I am determined to turn my life around, too! Details of course on my blog(s), should it actually happen…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hehe luv you can email me any time 😘. WP is probably better only because I check it more often than my email (whoops! Sorry email lol) 😂

      I like your responses! I’ll have to use some of these, if for no other reason than to give the Yanks something new to hear lol (we are quite the unimaginative lot lol) 😉💞

      Wow, it sounds like you’ve got some changes coming up! I admire your strength and determination! I’m really happy for you, and proud for you too! I’ll stay tuned to your blog, friend 😘💓💪🏼🌟

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I find this post highly relatable. This stuff is often on my mind. I’ve gone through a lot this month/year, with a lot of interpersonal struggles, financial struggles, health scares in people close to me and then losing a dear aunt just a few days ago. It was already hard enough to express to people, especially NT’s, what’s going on- am I “fine”? Even though these are all things that NT’s experience as well, for some reason I still attach shame to admitting what I struggle with. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to covering up my moments of social anxiety/confusion, panic attacks, sensory-overwhelmed moments to NT’s.

    “Are you ok?” That was already a hard question to answer…. But I just lost someone Friday. I haven’t lost someone before, it’s the first time, and for someone who’s almost 24, I know that means I’m “lucky”. I’m allowing myself plenty of time to process alone, which is best for me. The struggle comes of course in the social realm.

    I can talk to people and tell them I’m struggling. I told people I was a “mess” and couldn’t take on some things this week I normally can: in work, or volunteering. However, a fear remains in me that they look at me, for instance at church, seeming to look “fine” (except for when I had to exit the room a couple of times to cry or to receive a phone call from a family member) and they maybe wonder why I couldn’t have taught the kids today like I normally do? Or maybe they wonder how much I even care about this person? I even managed to get out a smile and crack jokes with people. I probably mostly appeared robotic and disengaged- eye contact and other social skills of course that I normally pour energy into were kind of falling off.

    I just don’t cry in front of people, and I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve cried even in front of a family member since I was an adult. Nobody has asked me to prove that I’m sad, but I feel like I’m expected to- especially because of gender stereotypes. Perhaps people notice that the effervescence I usually layer on to my social persona is gone.

    When people ask me how I feel, if they don’t have a high level of “security clearance”, I’ll tell them there was a family tragedy or not tell them at all. But even people I’m really close to, I hardly can express how I really feel because in a way I don’t know myself. I know that I’m sad because I’ll cry really hard sometimes- and the way my stomach twists in knots. But it’s somehow disconnected from my words. I just fall back on telling them facts- like the story of what happened, how she died and how things are with my family. Or stories of what she would say or do.

    Now that this comment is becoming a novel, I feel I should write a blog post on this topic, lol. But I am afraid of the “wrong” people reading it, people I know from real life who wouldn’t understand the struggles I face- but maybe I shouldn’t be so nervous about that. I guess if they care enough to read it, that says a lot on its own.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, girl 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼😊. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through as much as you have 💐💐. Especially your recent loss! 💞. I’m so glad you’re giving yourself the downtime to process that you need. I find that grief comes in waves, and although it has never gotten easier with time, I do get more used to it; my processing lets me adjust. I can relate very much to your description of social situations, too! 👏🏼👏🏼. And don’t get me started on gender stereotypes 😉😊💗. I love novel comments! One of the main reasons I write is to hopefully spur conversation and learn how/what others think and feel 💖. Thank you so much! 🌟🌟

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I like your statement that Theory of Mind goes both ways. I remember hearing alot of concerns about my sons ability to surmise what was in another persons head, to acknowledge that there could be other perspectives than his own. But how true that it works the other way round as well, that we fail to see the perspective of the very ones we claim have diminished perspective-taking abilities.

    I know one of my greatest regrets is that i am not a mindreader, as my son is the strong and silent type. But i will try to carefully consider his point of view!Great post, by the way!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! 😊. I know what you mean; my partner (not AS but likely neurodivergent in another way) is very similar to your son in that way, and I find myself feeling much like the way you described 💜. So yep, you’re absolutely right – it’s really difficult sometimes to see the world through another’s eyes 💗

      Liked by 1 person

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