October 1, 2018

a picture of Carl

When asked “how are you?”, how often do you tell the truth?

Yep, thought so. Don’t worry, I fib too. All the time.

Now, how often, when someone says to you “I’m fine”, do you follow up if you’re think they’re not? Yep, me too.

I’m very fortunate that I have a fiancée, some family members and a handful of mates who seem to sense when my mental health is dipping and know to ask me twice (or more!) if they hear “yeah, fine, you?”.

Now, asking twice doesn’t mean literally saying the same thing again. That would be annoying.

“How are you?”

“Yeah, fine, you?”

“How are you?”

“…what?”

To me, asking twice means different things. Here’s a few ways people have shown they’re there if I need them, when perhaps I don’t seem myself.

“Are you sure?”

Short, simple, but very effective. “Are you sure?” allows me to take the bait if I want to and open up a bit, or reply with a “yeah, I’m alright, thank you”, safe in the knowledge that the person who’s asked me how I am actually wants to know how I am, rather than chucking a clichéd greeting at me.

“Cool, you know where I am if you need me.”

I love this one. It lets me know they’ve clocked that I’m down, without confronting me to reveal the truth (which is very useful on days I’m not ready to talk), all the while bluntly reminding me that I can go to them if I need them. A very valuable thing to know when a mental health problem makes you feel alone.

“How’s work?”

Granted, this is a boring question. And small talk can be infuriating. But a “how was the weekend?”, “you’re on holiday soon, right?”, or anything of that ilk just shows a bit of interest in your mate’s/colleague’s/family member’s life without prying too much. If you land on an area that they want to vent, great. If not, they know you care.

“Did you watch the game last night?”

Whether it’s the game, a reality TV show or the latest moody drama, sometimes changing the subject to something you mutually enjoy is a nice way to stop prodding them. By chatting about everyday things when I’m down, my mates rid any feeling I have that I’m “not normal” or bringing them down.

“Nice one, having a tough day myself, if I’m honest.”

When a mate expresses something that’s on their mind, it never fails to remind me that it’s OK to talk to other people about my worries. I really value it when a friend is honest to me, so being open yourself can show you’re the kind of person who’s prepared to share and listen. (Only do this if you have something to say though, don’t go making up problems to trick me in to telling you mine, that’s naughty!)

Essentially, there’s no right or wrong answer here. No single phrase will resonate with everyone.

But if you ask twice with interest, listen and take what your friend has to say seriously, it can really show you’re open to hear more when they’re ready to talk. I for one can say that people asking me twice when I’ve been depressed has played a huge part in saving my life.

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Comments

no i'm not fine

Stop asking me. You're a work colleague. I'm not fine but however "chummy" you try and be, you're a work colleague and i'm not going to open up to you. Stop trying to be chummy, you're freaking me out and making me suspicious. Why do you want to know ? are the company looking to make head count reductions starting with those who can't cope or are a bit stressed?

Time to Change

Hi, this sounds like a really difficult situation to be in at work. How are things going at the moment? Take care, Jodie at Time to Change

Ask Twice

I think the "Ask Twice" initiative is a brilliant idea. I've suffered with depression and anxiety on and off for 40 years and the number of times I've thought to myself "I said I'm OK but I'm really not so PLEASE ask me again and I'll be honest this time!" must run into the thousands. It will help people so, please, if you think someone you know is unwell remember to Ask Twice.

Stop asking me.

If I'm working I have work to do so I will nether tell you nor listen to you. If I'm in the street I'm hardly going to tell you my private problems. If I have problems of my own I'm not equipped to start worrying about yours. Get proper help. I'm not opening those floodgates for me or for you. Stop asking.

Interesting Polarization

I also think the 'Ask Twice' campaign is a great idea. I almost never admit how I'm feeling the first time but 9 times out of 10 will take the bait the second time round because by asking again it shows that the person asking genuinely cares & wants to know and is not just using 'You alright' as a greeting. I'm a Mental Health First Aider for the company that I work for, and this initiative has been a great one to employ in the office and has resulted in some really open and supportive conversations. Opposingly, there are clearly people, as demonstrated in some of the other comments that this does not appeal to, which is fine. Not everything works for everybody. I don't think it's about being too friendly in a creepy way, it's about being genuine and having some compassion for the people around you, regardless of how familiar you are with them - they don't have to 'bite' as it were, to your second 'are you ok'. Sometimes just knowing someone is there is sufficient. If you are in a mental health crisis, sometimes that is all you need, and it can in fact be a lifeline.

Ask twice

Great piece; 'are you sure' 'you know where I am' and having a tough day myself' worsen my frustration and worry and raises my suspicions makes me feel like everyone can see my anxiety or whatever it is am going through, sometimes even when I know my friends are genuinely concerned it still irritates, I like it better if we talk about everything else and the issues am dealing with come up from what we are discussing, although 'how's work' and 'did you watch the game' would work perfectly for me

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