You ask how I am and you probably don’t know that this is a hard question. Possibly the hardest.
So I say I’m fine.
Fine I say, fine. I’m fine the kids are fine everything’s fine.
This is not the truth but how do I say the truth, which is that I am so acutely not fine? That the pain is back and it feels almost worse now because why is the pain back after all this time? The pain and the shame and the sadness and the grief, all of these things are supposed to be going away.
It’s been too long and I should be fine and who wants to even hear that I am not fine? I certainly don’t. I am so sick of not being fine.
Because I SHOULD be fine. I want to be done with this and I want to be fine.
I shouldn’t have hit another wall and I shouldn’t be having so much trouble getting out of bed every morning and I shouldn’t be preferring dark rooms to sun again and I shouldn’t have to take NyQuil to fall asleep every night and then struggle to wake up every morning while my husband gets the kids off to school and they come and kiss me goodbye in my bed like I’m some kind of invalid.
I shouldn’t be holding back tears for so many moments of the day.
I shouldn’t have to view getting dressed as a major life accomplishment for which I congratulate myself daily.
I should be fine. And I don’t know why I’m not.
But yes I’m fine, I say to you when you ask how I am, fine.
But no I am not really fine.
Instead of fine I feel crazy, bipolar, one week feeling the joy of summer and light and laughter and the next week struggling to keep up with all the commitments a normal person might make and look like a normal person while doing them even though nearly every moment there is anxiety and dread and fear and I am struggling.
Struggling to be a functional mom, wife, employee, friend, human.
Every moment feels like a struggle and the work is so hard.
I work hard to use my regular voice, not the flat dead voice that I had for three months last summer. That voice, that voice of despair wants to come back and be heard again.
But it shouldn’t be around anymore, that voice. It’s been too long and I am sure everyone is just sick of hearing that voice and what it has to say and I shouldn’t feel this awful again so there must be something terribly wrong with me so I am fine, I tell you, fine.
I can fake my regular voice now and I couldn’t fake it this time last year so that’s good right?
See, I told you I am fine. I smiled at you too and that wasn’t so hard, now was it? You made a joke and I laughed and so that is good because it’s not too hard to behave like a normal person, right?
Yes, yes it is so hard and it takes so much energy. And now I have to sit down again, retreat to one of my safe places.
It shouldn’t be such hard work to smile at you.
It shouldn’t feel, every minute, that I am fighting to break the surface of the water while I have a cinder block chained to my ankle, and the struggle is mighty to just stay where I am and not be dragged down deeper. Even though I want, so very desperately, to come to shore.
There are people on shore, you know. Smiling, laughing people. They look a little distorted through the water but I think some of them are waving at me. One or two of them might have said something like, “Gosh, that looks hard. That cinder block seems heavy. I’m sorry it’s so hard for you.”
It shouldn’t be such hard work to just stay where I am and not be dragged down further toward the murky depths. I should actually be able to unchain the cinder block and come on shore and be smiling and laughing with the normal people while I dry off in the sun.
I must not be doing this right.
I must not be doing this right because when I look back to two or three years ago (thanks, Facebook Memories) I see that I wasn’t always drowning.
I was on the shore with the people then! I was laughing with friends and being fit and having fun with my family and I just felt like a normal person and I was happy, wasn’t I?
So why this, now, still?
I want to go back to being that person again because she really was fine and this new person, this not-fine-but-pretend-fine-me feels wrong.
Being pretend fine is not what I am supposed to be. I have been fighting against being pretend fine, because that’s what I was for so many years and I know it is wrong.
It is wrong to be drowning and at the same time waving back at people and smiling and say, I’m fine! Hope the party is fun! I’ll be there soon, just give me a hot minute!
But this is too hard and I don’t even really have a good reason to be not fine anymore because it’s been too long and I should be fine for real by now and pretend fine is something I’m good at and I definitely should be way beyond not fine by now, right?
I should have been able to unburden myself of this cinder block by now.
Isn’t there an expression that says fake it til you make it? I have the faking it part down. So why isn’t the make it part happening?
It’s me, it’s definitely me. I am doing something wrong.
So you ask how I am and I smile and say fine, I am fine.