Why Are We So Afraid To Answer This One Simple Question
By Julia Shults
It’s interesting the stories we choose to tell about ourselves.
We choose the words that characterize us, our life and our routine. The most everyday questions like “How are you?” and “What’s going on lately?” could start a connection with someone, yet we usually choose “fine” without thinking. And what’s just as interesting, are the details we choose to leave out. How we really feel, what’s really going on at home, and the stories we tell ourselves in our head that really lead our narrative.
Why are we so afraid to tell our stories?
Lately, my question to myself is, “Would anyone notice if I just dropped off the face of the earth?” I could just stop communication;quit returning calls, quit making plans, stop texting…This is my story as an almost 40-year old working mother, with equally busy friends and family. Everyone is busy and complaining about being busy. Would they even notice if I dropped out for a while? Similarly, I have a co-worker who seemingly has it all; great job and endless growth for future promotion, beautiful house full of children in nice neighborhood, and a loving husband. She continues to make an effort, make plans, and set goals. She recently confided in me that none of this makes her happy. Actually reaching a goal throws her into listlessness, a void to fill of what’s next. Making an effort exhausts her, but she’s scared to quit moving. She suffers from depression and no matter what she does, she can’t seem to heal herself.
We aren’t alone in our stories. There are tons of women of all ages, from teens to the elderly, suffering in silence, sure that nobody will understand. And what’s funny is so many women truly do understand, and we still choose to suffer alone. I have been on antidepressants, and even in this day and age, it’s shameful to share this with anyone. But when I do, every woman tells me she has been on antidepressants at one point in time. But we all hide it, and see it as a weakness. We see ourselves as broken, not strong, incapable of handling our own lives. Depression is a disease. But because Depression is hard to diagnose, impossible to see and those inflicted feel ashamed, it’s not taken seriously.
So, we tend to go at it alone and try “Self-Care.” And I use quotes because Self-Care, as it’s sold by yogis and essential oils, is a product-pushing joke. Especially if you look at Instagram. Products like sugar scrubs, Himalayan salt lamps, or luxurious jammies, all which could make you relax but not really teach you how to care for yourself.
I don’t know what the answer is. I wish I did. If you know, please tell me. But, there are a few things I’ve learned about myself and depression that may help you along your way:
1. Vulnerability connects us -
First, share your story. Create your energy where others know you are a safe space to share theirs. Ask someone how they are really doing. Don’t be afraid to go deep and do it often. You’ll be amazed at how you can break through your own pain by talking about it to others similarly struggling.
2. Personal success doesn’t equal happiness -
I see this all the time with myself and my friends, “Once I meet a guy, I’ll be happy.” “Once I lose the baby weight, I’ll be more like my old self.” “Once I get this promotion, I’ll be able to laugh and have fun again.” Goals are good, but once achieved, you can’t magically change into a different person. And goals just push the bar higher, the potential of happiness further away…remember that happiness is a feeling in the moment. Learn to live in the moment and happiness won’t feel like a far-off unreachable goal.
3. Helping others helps us heal -
When I am at my lowest, I ask friends and family what I can do to help them. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it seems to make me feel lighter when I can serve a purpose. I feel useful, confident, competent which creates a trend of moving myself forward. It’s amazing to see someone else smile because of flowers you brought them, a meal you prepared while they were sick or just spending time with an older relative or friend.
Maybe the next time someone asks how you are, consider sharing more of yourself. Your answer does not have to be a tough topic for you. Just start by sharing a glimpse into your true self, which may open an important dialogue for you and inspire others to do the same.