Are you okay?

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I have to admit, when someone asks me if I’m fine or okay, I start to get a bit defensive.  I immediately begin to wonder if I’m starting to look weak or somehow flawed.  I’ll come up with any number of excuses to convince the person that I am completely okay and that they need not worry about me.  But 9 times out of 10, when somebody asks me this, I only go on the defensive because they are completely right.  I’m not always fine and somehow it seems they’ve noticed it.  I’m terrible at being able to hide my emotions and I’m drawn to people who are really good at reading them.  So with that combination, I am always sure to be found out.

Today, I was thinking all of this over and began to wonder why I am so set on having people believe that I’m okay, when in fact I’m actually not.  I think part of it stems from my upbringing.  I grew up in a home where I was taught to “suck it up and drive on.”  If I ever had a problem, I was told that it was inconsiderate to speak of it and burdensome for others to hear it.   I was told that there were plenty of other people who had worse problems, so my problems were not important enough to speak of.  I’m almost thinking this was a generational thing because I see a lot of people my age who were told the same thing.  We weren’t allowed to complain or voice our opinions like people are nowadays.  Everything was a certain way, and whether we liked it or not, that’s just the way it was.  We didn’t have many choices or options, we were just told to do what we were supposed to do, and not ask questions or complain.

I had my first and only panic attack when I was 18, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  I had just started a new job, in a new state, and was living with my biological father for the first time.  I didn’t know anybody and barely even knew my dad.  I had no idea I was feeling anxious at the time because I had grown accustomed to the feeling of anxiety and usually just tried to brush it off as if nothing were wrong.  But for some reason, that day, my body wouldn’t cooperate with me just brushing off the anxious emotions which were welling up inside of me.  I was completely alone, facing the world for the first time on my own, and uncertainty and fear began to overwhelm me.

Well, that first day on the job only lasted about 20 minutes, before the anxiety attack started.  Everything began to turn different shades of gray and I could barely stand due to the sudden dizziness I felt.  All sound became muffled and it seemed like I had gone into a dark tunnel where sounds just echoed off the walls around me.  I could hear my breathing, which was raspy and strained, and the pounding of my heart, a sound I had never heard audibly, was now the only other sound I could hear.  I could no longer speak because I could no longer hear my own voice.  It was probably the scariest moment of my life, and I had no idea what was happening.

I remember somebody leading me to a storage room and making me sit down on some boxes.  I remember sitting there thinking that I might possibly be dying, but I had no idea what to do about it.  After being left there for what seemed like ages, finally, somebody came back for me and tried to ask me what was wrong.  I remember not being able to explain to them what was wrong and so eventually they seemed to give up and just drove me home and left me at my apartment.

I don’t remember how long I was back at my apartment before I was coherent enough to call my dad, but after he got home, I remember trying to explain to him what had happened.  Since I had never experienced something like that before, I couldn’t really explain what had happened to me.  Looking back, I think everyone at that store must have thought I was on drugs or something.  I never did end up going back to that place and I don’t think I ever contacted anyone to tell them that I wasn’t coming back.  It was years before I ever fully understood what had happened to me that day.  I haven’t had another panic attack since then and I really hope I never do.

I’ve since become a master at hiding my anxiety and rarely admit to anyone that I am often depressed.  The only time I really confide in anyone is after my feelings of anxiety have subsided.  I feel like it’s safer for me to talk about it then after the suicidal thoughts have left me, and when I can control my emotions better.  I always have this fear that if I actually tell someone how I’m really feeling that they will lock me away somewhere, for fear that I may otherwise harm myself.

I’ve seen my own daughter end up in a mental hospital and so I know what they are like.  The place she stayed at did her absolutely no good and actually made her mental state worse.  She became like a prisoner while she was there and we had no say in anything that happened to her.  The psychiatrist there told my husband and me that he had complete control of our underage daughter and that he wouldn’t release her until he wanted to.  I wouldn’t wish a place like that on my worst enemy and it breaks my heart every time I think of my daughter having to have been there.

It all started out with our family physician insisting that we take her there, and once we did, we lost all parental rights and were only allowed to visit her for about an hour each day.  We drove the two hours there and back every day, all in order to be able to at least see her and tell her how much we loved her.  But I would never allow it again for any of my family members, no matter what the situation, and I certainly never want to end up in a place like that myself.  So even though I struggle with anxiety and depression, I do so without medication, without therapy, and without any sort of outside help.  I “suck it up and drive on.”  It’s the way I was taught and the way I’ll forever remain.


Photo credit: pixabay.com

40 responses to “Are you okay?

  1. I am so sorry for what you have been through :(. I can’t imagine how hard must have been and I can totally understand why you said that you saw a connection with my post. If you ever need to talk don’t suck it up, release your emotions. I wish you all the best and take care!

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  2. Michelle, I’m from that same generation. Much of it is good, and the part that was missing is being able to talk about things, whether it is a good friend or a sister, or a parent. That makes all the difference in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean… I’m lacking a good friend and don’t have any family close by. I think if I had somebody around who I could really trust and confide in, I would be much happier. But unfortunately this isn’t something I can easily remedy. Only prayer can change it. So until God decides to open a door, I sit up against a very firmly shut one and try my best to carry on, Thanks for stopping by Jennie. You are always so sweet to come and visit me. I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. ❤️

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  3. What a horrible experience with your daughter, Michelle. I’m so sorry that happened to her, to you, and your family. We have such a long way to go in treating mental health. I hope someday those experiences are things of the distant past. ❤

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    • Thanks D… it was something completely unexpected. It all came on suddenly during her senior year in high school. I was completely uniformed about mental illness back then and had no idea what to do. That experience made our entire family more aware and it brought us all closer to each other as well. So despite how horrible it was, we came out of it stronger and with a better sense of what others are dealing with as well.

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  4. People with mental health problems are probably some of the world’s best liars. A smile plastered on the face and the yes I am fine parroted out.

    I do it as well and I have no idea why. I am now getting use to changing my whole mindset and saying actually no I am not fine, but it difficult have 20 plus years of saying I am fine

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    • I think eventually some people just get fed up with playing the “I’m fine” game. The thing is, I can tell when people aren’t sharing with me how they’re truly feeling and if they can’t open up to me, then why should I open up to them? I don’t trust like I once did. There’s been too many people who I thought I could trust without a shadow of a doubt who have let me down. I’ll never trust another person completely because of it.

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      • I do think that trust has a big part of it, I have also found that depression shows you who are your true friends and who just was there superficially

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        • Very true… I think sometimes it becomes an issue of a friend not being able to relate. So then of course they don’t know what to say and then they often won’t say anything at all. When my daughter was diagnosed with her mental illness, her friends weren’t there to help. It seemed none of them could understand. I think it was too overwhelming for most of them to handle. It’s a difficult thing to face and very few people are educated on the subject.

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  5. This question of “How are you?” is one I ponder about often. My personal experience with the question is that a small number of people who ask me really want to know the answer, and then among the small group that do it is an even smaller number that want to know for the right reasons. I think it is a question that has become more an automatic response built into greets and certain false etiquette. As a result typically I give the automated response, “fine. You?” However, sometimes I give the real answer with words like: struggling, horrible, not well…and I am rarely surprised by the response. It really should be an experiment in communication. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Oh, I hate the fake “How are you’s.” I see those at church quite a bit. And before you can even answer, the person who asked the question in the first place, has turned away and is now talking to someone else. It really is obnoxious. What I’m referring to in this context though, are the people who look you straight in the eye and really want to know if you’re okay. You can hear the doubt in their voice, as if they know you aren’t fine, and are expecting you to hide the truth. Those are the people who get me every time. They are somehow able to read me and then my face usually gives me away. So then I feel like I have to come up with a quick response to hide how I’m really feeling. And this is why I stay home most days. Lol… If I don’t have to see anyone, then I don’t have to answer their questions. 😉

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  6. Warm, comforting hugs to you my friend. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Much is a mystery to me. My generation “sucked it up” and talked little about “feelings” but I believe the younger generations who “let it all hang out” have lots more mental conflict, depression, stress, anger, self-pity, and such. Suicide was almost unheard of. Alcohol, drugs, medicine, and psychiatry were not nearly as overused as today. Divorce was rare. Technology, materialism, education doesn’t seem to have helped the human condition much concerning happiness. As I said, much concerning today’s “advancement” is a mystery to me.

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  8. Anxiety can be difficult to manage and I do understand you having to “suck it up” as a child but I do believe in therapy and certain medications. I took Lexapro for many years and eventually learned to manage my life better. My daughter takes Lexapro and she ended up in the ER many times with panic attacks. But she is getting better as she gets older and there is hope eventually she may be able to do it without medication. If you keep holding things in eventually they come out, one way or other. Better to take control and manage it with therapy and medication if needed. Best wishes to you 🙂

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    • I completely agree with you Hector, and I’m so glad you and your daughter ended up getting the care you needed. My daughter can’t live without her meds. They were a lifesaver for her as she is low in serotonin.
      The meds she’s on, boost her levels enough, so that she no longer has hallucinations. Fortunately, I have become good at keeping myself in check since I never really had anybody to rely on for help. I like to make life difficult for myself I guess. Lol… My faith in God has been the real lifesaver for me and the times I’ve been in the deepest pit of despair are the times God has saved me. Too many experiences to tell, but all very life changing and miraculous. So this is how I cope and it seems to be working because I’m still here. 😉

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  9. Your story is sad, and mental illness is so hard to explain and deal with, and I think because we all possess a brain, then we’ll suffer some sort of mental disorder sooner or later, just like catching the flu, sooner or later … I spent seven years with a psychologist, and she was profoundly good for me. I was suffering from continued mental blackouts and anxiety attacks, and the whole situation was terrible. Basically we worked it out that my mind had been grieving for the loss of my wife, trouble was, she was still very much alive.!!….. anyhow, she passed a few years ago, and I’m still alive and coping “OK”

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    • Ivor, I can hardly imagine how much you had to go through by losing the love of your life. And it’s amazing to hear about how wonderful a caretaker you were to her. She was blessed to have you and it sounds like you gave her the best life she could have had, despite her failing health. I think it must have made you a stronger person. Seems things like this always make people stronger and more resilient.

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  10. I know exactly where you are coming from here. I was raised to not talk too much about feelings, so I not only kept things to myself, but I also never really understood what I was feeling and why. All the terrible feelings just grew and grew until they all came spilling out, in a messy, scary, awful way, and none of it made any sense.
    I can remember at one point in my 20s when I did tentatively start trying to tell people that I was not okay, but no one knew what to do with that, so it just made everything worse. It made me want to hide my feelings even more.
    I don’t have any friends now that I turn to when I’m feeling all the big feels, because I think the level that I feel things at is way too overwhelming for most people. My husband is my rock though. Thank god for that!
    What your daughter went through was awful, and I’m sorry. As a parent, you must have felt so incredibly helpless. My heart breaks just thinking about it. ❤

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    • You and I are so much like. See… this is what I mean about a generational thing! I don’t have any friends that I can turn to now either and I’m learning to accept the fact that I probably never will again. My husband at least checks in with me a few times a day and is really sweet about telling me how much he loves and cares about me. He may not be here in the flesh right now, but he’s my rock from a distance and that’s the only way I’m surviving at the moment. I really don’t know what I would ever do without him. I have to admit, it does worry me, as he just found out that somebody in his unit was killed today overseas. And hubby will be leaving for the same location very soon. But I have to trust he’ll be okay. God knows I can’t do life without him, so he just has to be!

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      • It must take such a toll on you. I would be an absolute wreck in your shoes.

        It’s a bit scary sometimes, isn’t it, knowing that we only have one person in our lives who we can turn to?

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        • Oh gosh yes! Without him I would have absolutely nobody! I mean at least I would have my girls, but that isn’t the same. I’m sure you know what I mean. You certainly cannot confide in your kids the same way. Not even after they get older.

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  11. I am sorry to hear that story, all of it. I have had great support from my therapists and the 2 times I went in the hospital, aside from them messing up my meds the support and therapy were helpful. After being released, my psych nurse would work on fixing my meds that they had screwed with. I wasn’t there long enough for them to see the damage they had done to me with the wrong meds.

    One of my children was in a youth center at 16. We didn’t have much control over the situation either, but the child was smart enough to figure out what they wanted to hear and to give them that. It got them released sooner. Fighting it made it worse. I used that lesson when I was hospitalized and wanted out. Give them what they wanted whether true feelings or not and they will let you go. I have been in there twice. I hope to remain out of there the rest of my life. Nothing like losing your freedom and constantly being watched.

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    • Yeah, my daughter wasn’t there long enough for them to see the awful reaction she had to her meds. And she played the game as well and got released earlier than expected. My daughter was 17 at the time. Our insurance wouldn’t cover a mental health doctor once she was released, and we tried for almost a year to find someone who would take our insurance, but nobody ever would. So our family physician was the one who had to treat her because she began to try and harm herself. He went with his gut instinct and the first med he switched her to worked. She’s 21 now and still on the same meds and doing great. I’m grateful she came out of it alright. It was a dreadful situation and I almost lost my daughter. I never want to go through something like that again.

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      • I feel for you and glad she also could play the system and get out early. I am also glad her meds worked and are still working. Very difficult to find a working combination, believe me, I know. My current meds are very fragile and not quite stabilizing my bipolar, but they let me sleep and that is more important to me than the mild mania or depression I sometimes still suffer.

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        • Me too and fortunately she only has to take one type of medication and not a combination. I’m a bit worried though, as her insurance coverage has run out since she is off mine now, due to her turning 21. And the state she lives in, won’t let apply for health insurance until January. So, she may run out of her meds before then. I’m very concerned, but there is nothing I can do about it. Our healthcare system in this county has failed everybody and we wonder why people end up going crazy and shooting people for no good reason. Sorry… there’s my rant for the day. When my child’s health is in jeopardy, I tend to get a little more than perturbed. I know you have been dealing with stabilization for quite some time. I’m sorry it’s been such an ordeal for you. Don’t you just wish there was a single solution to everybody’s troubles. I sure wish there was! 😉

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