Personal Development

Avoid Saying I'm Fine When You're Not

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We see it all the time in our newsfeeds – great little pictures with captions that cheer us up and provide an alternate outlook on our situation. We may not need the reassurance at all hours of the day, but we do always know someone that does. And when we find ourselves having those less-than-great days, they help us.

depression_1Everyday we deal with an array of emotions and sometimes they creep up unexpectedly, in the worst places, at work, in bars, at get-togethers. You could just be having a bad day, or reeling from memories of the part – even waking up in the morning from a nightmare could set you on the wrong foot. We are a fragile people, and it's ok to embrace that. We are all going through it together. But it doesn't look like it. Why do all of my friends seem fine all the time then? It could be that they are strong and have been through a lot – and are very good at hiding it.

Sometimes when we are feeling down, the last thing we want to do is talk to anyone – it's a bit of a Catch-22 isn't it? We know that when we are dealing with depression we should spend more time with our friends, go out more often, and call people who matter, even though what we always end up doing is laying on our couch at home and leaving our phones in the other room.

While other people are enjoying their day-to-day life, you are in a funk, but you still have to talk to people. We know how heavy it is on our soul when people ask "how are you?" and we are forced to say "fine, thanks." It's a small but poignant time in our day that we wish we never had to deal with. We hate saying "I'm fine, thanks" because it is a lie. We know we are lying to people, but there is little else we can do – which makes us feel even more suffocated. We feel even more alone because what is bothering us inside has to stay put – it has no place in small talk. People ask you, "what have you been up to?" but you can't think of anything to respond with – you've been locked in your home dealing with the burden of short term depression.

Now's your opportunity to turn that Catch-22 into a positive step forward.

Steer the conversation to your friend's life

Remember that "how are you?" and "what's new?" are not invitations to a full conversation about exactly how you are and exactly what is new – they are conversational mediums we've agreed to in order to establish camaraderie and social comfort. They let us become comfortable within each other's personal circle so that we can initiate well-meaning small talk and navigate into familiar territory so that we can have a fulfilling conversation.

Here's your chance – steer the small talk away, and fire the same questions back at your friend, but seriously. Let them know you are interested (even if you're not) into what kind of things they are doing with their life. If you allow the other person to talk, and challenge yourself to actively listen, you will start to regain your personality and resume your social position. When we have a bit of depression we hide ourselves inside so much that you wonder who you even are. You don't recognize this person, and you would think she/he was acting strange if you were viewing from outside. If you can get your brain to quiet down for a bit and let your listening powers shine through you will slowly become yourself again and be less fearful of social situations. You might have to fake a laugh, and every now and then you will lose track of the topic and have to say something silly to bring yourself back in. That's ok! You're tired. But what's important is that you aren't trying to avoid the situation – you're accepting it and using it as a method to re-invite yourself into a comfortable social situation

If you're in a depressive mood but you're stuck in some unavoidable social situation, there is a way for you to enjoy yourself. Listen to other people and let their cheer influence your experience. Imitate their smiles and laughters, their curiosities and interests, until you are living the play. Maybe you will meet someone that you are able to share your dark mood with – and get through it together. That is what small talk is for. Or maybe you will leave the situation a new person and forget why you were in such a bad mood at all. At the end of the day, there will always be light.

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.