At almost 38, I’ve had this conversation a thousand times:
SOMEONE: Hi! How are you?
ME: I’m good. How are you?
SOMEONE: Good, thanks!
And so on.
Lately though, I’ve changed the script because what I’ve realized is that I’m fucking tired of lying as part of a social nicety. We normally aren’t asking “how are you?” with the goal of actually learning the answer. We’re asking it because we feel like we should, because that is what people do when they encounter another human and are expected (forced) to engage in small talk so that you won’t be mistaken for a curmudgeonly asshole with a field completely devoid of fucks.
Well, people — my field isn’t just fuckless. The earth has been scorched, salted, and more closely resembles a lava flow than a meadow filled with fucks for others.
I’m worn out. Worn out in a way I haven’t been in years. Not since all of the medical nightmares with Dad’s cancer and complications have I been this worn out. I’m perpetually tired to the point where I am tired of being tired. And then I’m tired of being tired of being tired.
I can barely stand myself right now.
Last weekend, I was in a deep low. I couldn’t get out of my own way. In an attempt to make myself wake up and feel better, I decided to take a shower — use the water and the warmth to feel something. I grabbed my towel, stripped down, turned the water on, and then…no hot water. Lukewarm at best. I walked into my bedroom, curled up into a ball on the bed under the covers, and then proceeded to cry. I wept big squishy tears. The lack of hot water was the last straw on my simmering bonfire of sadness and I had no logic left to find a solution or an alternative. Scott came upstairs and simply curled around me while I released irrational, bewildered tears. (Husband points were gained that day).
So, my answer to “how are you?” is not “I’m good” or some other version of the bland positive nothingness we normally give. My answer to “how are you?” is that I’m shitty. I’m depressed and I’m NOT OK. And guess what? There is nothing you can do about that. And that is OK. The only way out is through.
When I’m not weeping big squishy tears over lukewarm water, I know that this happens to me often during autumn. The leaves changing color are a double-edged sword laced with foreboding joy: they are a beautiful harbinger of what is to come – winter. When the leaves change, I feel awe at the stunning magic of nature, but I also feel a creeping gloom because that means that stick season and its evil of seemingly endless neutral color is nearly upon us. And what follows after that? The cold white horror of snow and diminishing daylight.
Things are also simply HARD right now. I love teaching, but school is currently extremely difficult. Students are more challenging with each passing day. I’m actively writing a brand new class and that entails an intense amount of preparation (aka time and research). I’m the highest my weight has ever been and I’m pissed about it, but I can’t seem to find the time, willpower, energy, etc. to change it. Scott’s job requires him to be gone for much of the week, and even after 20 years we like each other enough where we want to spend as much time together as possible, and that’s not happening right now.
I say all of this because I know I am not alone. I know that when I too commit the sin of social niceties, the responses I’m receiving aren’t the truth either. We try not to burden others with our woes as we know they probably have their own woes to deal with, but in many cases sharing our woes is exactly what we should be doing. This is how we help each other, by listening.
At some point in the last month or whatever (time has no meaning to me anymore), it was mental health awareness day/week/month/fortnight/kerfuffle and many people shared their stories of struggling with mental illness. We need to keep doing this on days other than whenever instagram or facebook tells us to. It’s OK to not be OK. Talking about it can keep the shadows at bay. It can keep the loneliness from creeping in. It can help you find the other end of the depression wormhole. And no, social niceties aren’t truly evil or wrong, but pretending you’re OK to the people who love and care about you is not always the best move. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a strength. Be the strongest, baddest bitch and reach out. That’s what I’m doing.
I am 100% that bitch, and I think Lizzo would be proud.