WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU ASKED SOMEONE HOW THEY WERE DOING? DID YOU GENUINELY MEAN IT? DID YOU TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN?
Many may not realize that in the moments of battling a mental illness (or any illness), these three words can make a huge impact on the day of the minds like ours (yes, I had to throw that in there). One year ago I made a commitment to myself to be sure to ask those around me how they are doing, at least one person – every.single.day. Strangers, friends, family members, and coworkers. However, it’s important to not only ask the question but to mean it genuinely. LISTEN. Watch their body language, their facial expressions, their words, their tone. It says it all.
The reactions I receive when asking this question are somewhat surprising to me. In my personal experience, the responses go one of two ways:
The first and most common reaction go something like this: Good, thanks. – Simple and quick.
The other reaction I also find common is: I did this and this today, I’ve been really busy. – Thinking I asked them what they did today or what they are currently doing, not realizing that I just asked how they are feeling.
Nowadays, a lot of conversations are unfortunately in the form of texting, and social media has taken over to show off to the world how crappy or happy we are, therefore, many won’t ask how others are truly feeling, they think they can see and understand it all through technology. OR, we are wrapped up in our own lives that we don’t take the time to ask others how THEY are feeling (I’ve been there!), OR maybe we feel as though expressing our feelings is a sign of weakness or burdensome to others (It’s really not). Either way, the question, “How are you?” is often used in passing, yet not being taken serious enough, in my opinion.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO PICK UP THE PHONE AND ASK SOMEONE HOW THEY ARE DOING.
The reason why I say this is because, as someone who lives with a mental health condition and has faced many difficult times, including the feeling of being completely alone – I really just needed someone to ask me to how I was doing in a deep way that made me feel as though they genuinely cared. This past week I have experienced a lot of emotional and physical pain. I believe some people could tell. I have voiced my feelings to a few, but not one person has genuinely asked me how I was doing…until today. My sister. Gahh – I love her sweet heart. She must have sensed something all the way from Texas because out of the blue I received a message asking me if I’m okay. It immediately put a smile on my face. (Thank you, sis!)
A couple weeks ago about 300 people were laid off from our company due to closed facilities. It was a difficult time for everyone was affected by it. One of the gentlemen that were given an end date with the company sat near me and although we were not close I still wanted to ensure he was okay. I went into his office and asked him how he was doing. His response went something like this, Oh you know – trying to get my tasks done today, I’m swamped.
I responded with, “Okay, let me ask again. HOW ARE YOU? Are you doing okay?”
The look on his face was a look of shock as though he had never heard the question before. He sat back in his chair and said, “I’m stressed out. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have options, but I need to think about which option I will take. It’s sad. Thank you so much for asking.” I sensed appreciation in his tone after our heartfelt conversation.
You see, when someone you know is in a hospital bed bleeding or with other signs of a visible injury or illness, people will run to their bedside in panic or worry asking with sincerity if they are okay. What about our invisible illnesses?
Last year, my mentee was admitted to the psychiatric hospital for self-harm. She was 15 years old. I had spent many days with her, picking her up from school, having her over for sleepovers and movie nights, and enjoyed weekends exploring and going to the movies. She was such a bright young girl, and I loved bonding with her. I received a phone call from her mother one evening stating that she was “contemplating” on taking her daughter to the hospital. I immediately advised that she admit her or I would. She needed help and was apparently suffering. I asked her mom for the information of which hospital she was admitted to, and her mom responded in shock, “Why?”. I said, “because I am going to visit her. I can meet you there if you’d like?”
The point of my short story is that her mother never showed up to visit. From my understanding, she never even called her. Her daughter was in the hospital for 5 days. When I appeared at the hospital to visit her, this young girl was completely shocked and cried as she grabbed onto me. I asked her why she was crying and she told me, she had never had a visitor before (it wasn’t her first attempt). In fact, most of her roommates hadn’t either. We sat in her room, and I listened to her talk for a couple hours. I gave her the best advice I could about coping skills and reassured her that she wasn’t alone. I learned so much that day, especially the importance of empathy.
Did you know about 8.3 million people have had suicidal thoughts in the past year? It is important to reach out and ask others how they are doing. You could save a life with one simple question and take the time to listen, and when you do, remember this:
THEIR FEELINGS ARE THEIR FEELINGS. THEY MATTER. THEY ARE VALID AND ACCURATE TO THEM. DO NOT DISMISS, DISAGREE OR TELL THEM THEY SHOULDN’T FEEL THE WAY THEY DO.
This is so important to understand. This goes for all circumstances, not just hurting people with a mental illness. For everyone.
I’ll end it with this – How are YOU doing? Respond below or email me if you need someone to talk to. Help is always out there.
-Minds Like Ours, Kayla Fae