I’m Fine.

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day Two: I’m Fine.

Sometimes it’s a slow descent into madness. So slowly we don’t notice anything’s wrong until everything is. We break down in the kitchen at 2am crying so hard we can’t breathe.

Sometimes it comes all at once. We endure something. A death, an assault, an accident, a trauma. We have a baby. We go to bed in a different world than the one we wake up in.

Either way, the whole time, we mutter under our breaths, I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine until it’s clear that we aren’t.

Looking back on it now, it feels silly, but I know it felt real then, and with the amount of conversations I’ve had in the past decade, I know it feels real to you too: I don’t want to take a pill to feel happy.

On this side of things, as an asthmatic, I know I need my inhaler to breathe. It’s stupid. Plenty of people can breathe without one. I’m just not one of them. Plenty of people don’t need to take a pill to ward off the darkness. I’m just not one of them. I also have anxiety and nightmares. I can rarely fall asleep on my own. I take pills for that too. It’s why I’m a huge advocate for medication. It’s quick and effective. And when everything is hard – getting out of bed, going to work and school, staying alive – it’s easy.

I also understand medication isn’t everything. You might feel weird about putting things in your body or messing with your brain chemistry. And, the truth is, medication isn’t enough alone. I’ve made changes to my environment as well. I know I can’t stay in bed all day on the weekends. Even when it takes me two and a half hours to get my shoes on and walk out the door. I know it’s what’s best for me. I know I thrive better living with people than on my own. There’s something about forced human connection that pulls me out of my head a bit. I like to take long walks to the store because it makes me feel better than driving. I drive in the same haze I sit in. When I walk, I have to shake it out a bit. I get hot or cold.

These strategies didn’t come overnight. It took a lot of effort to find out what didn’t work and what did. It also meant I had to stop saying I was fine when I wasn’t.


There’s a lot of reasons we’re unwilling to say we’re not okay. Despite our best efforts, there’s still a stigma around going to therapy and mental illness. There’s concerns that these people are dangerous. Films like Joker and political analysis of mass shootings assert a narrative that sick people do sick things. We’re busy. It’s difficult to have a nervous breakdown when you’re raising kids, going to school, and working full time. It’s expensive. I see Facebook posts at least every other week from friends who can’t afford groceries, inhalers, or credit card bills. You want them to go to therapy on top of it?

And it takes so much time to find someone you’re comfortable with, who has a therapy style that fits you. Imagine going on a first date, but instead of talking about what your parents do or what your love language is, you have to unpack your traumas and explain why you feel like everyone is out to get to you. Then, on date three, you realize the person you’re seeing isn’t even attractive and you have to start all over again. It’s exhausting and traumatic and difficult for anyone, let alone someone going through a personal health crisis.

A multifaceted problem requires a multifaceted solution. We need more people to say they aren’t okay, declare it with pride and affection. Last Christmas, a person who went to my church posted a photo admitting she wasn’t okay. It was so empowering to me to know someone else wasn’t okay. We need affordable mental health care and a work culture that validates workers who aren’t okay. People shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent and staying alive. We need to normalize medication for mental illness and accept that it isn’t the only path to stability. Yoga, mindfulness, physical activity are all acceptable ways for people to feel better. We need to give people the empowerment to say they aren’t okay and the courage to ask how we can help.

First, though, we have to be vulnerable with ourselves. We have to stop saying we’re fine when we mean we’re not. If we want an honest answer to the question “How are you?” we have to first be willing to answer the question ourselves. Building an inclusive, empathetic world begins at home. It begins with having compassion for yourself. Maybe you’re not fine.

And maybe that’s okay.

Today’s Challenges:

In what ways are you not okay? What strategies are you willing to implement in your life to improve your functioning?

Take ten minutes out of your day to do something you want to do. Something that relaxes and restores you.


Suicide Prevention Hotline

For Family and Friends

National Alliance on Mental Illness


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