Boston, November 14, 2018

A picture of Boston

Picture this. Your everyday. Getting home from a long hard day, something has annoyed you, you’re feeling down, some bad thoughts are circling in your head. A loved one, friend or family member asks, “How was your day?” and you, like every other day, happy or sad, and regardless of your mental state, utter “fine.” But sometimes it isn’t fine. Or even, you haven’t gotten out of bed all day, you feel like you deserved the rest but that isn’t what is keeping you there, and when someone asks if you’re feeling okay “I’m fine” seems to slip out anyway.

We answer “fine” to make light work of trying to explain the stresses of our day or perhaps try and forget about things we are struggling with. More than likely, we don’t want to burden a loved one, friend or family member with our problems, feeling as if we’re putting it all on them.

So – ask twice!

Our unconscious mind tricks us into feeling and acting like we are fine when we are really not. It’s a common trait of masculinity in particular, but neurologically affects us all. This doesn’t retract from the fact we know in our subconscious that we are not okay and fighting this urge alone is hard. Further, with the prevalence of social media in our lives today, and how we only ever post ‘highlights’ of our lives, social expectations have conditioned us to make it seem necessary to always to be having a good time when this simply isn’t possible nor ever the case.

Asking twice helps.

When my mum would turn to me and say, “It wasn’t really fine was it?” it is as if a weight had been lifted. It’s like an access signal. Green light go, a gate opened or a door unlocked. Although we shouldn’t need it, it is a certain signal to show a loved one you care and really want to talk and help them through their struggles. We know that we can let go of the predisposed social expectation that we have to be okay and denounce our feelings. It is also an assertion of care and a willingness to listen that means explaining your feelings isn’t a burden but instead a request. Sometimes that is the signal we need to tell us it is okay to talk and that someone wants to listen.

The benefits are huge. Just as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.

For me, talking about my issues, although they still meant I felt down, helped me to realise sometimes the insignificance of them or sometimes the significance of them; as I had now told someone, we could act on them together to resolve them. Moreover, letting someone close to you know you have a problem relieves all the stress and tension you may have trying to act like you’re okay when you are not. Asking twice aids this process.

I felt able to share my day-to-day struggles and someone else understanding not only makes you feel less alone but more so helps you deal with them. Someone who doesn’t take on the same emotions can see rational ways to get round things or further ways to cope. For me, taking some time away from social media seems to be an excellent remedy but like most of us I feel dependent on this. Speaking out to my mum meant she was able to tell me to put my phone down, meaning I could cope far better. It seems silly and trivial. But, because she asked twice, I was able to feel better sooner.

So with all this in mind, next time you think someone isn't feeling 'fine' – ask twice!

It could be the signal they need to have a brighter day, and one day it could be you too!

Let’s get more conversation going about our mental health. Ask Twice.

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