You know that moment when you are depressed and you are out in the world because you have to be, even if you’d rather be at home under the covers, that moment when someone, known or unknown, asks how you are?
And you think yourself : Well, how the hell do I answer that question?
The answer to that question is not a clear one but there are different ways to answer, depending on what you feel like you can handle and what you need. The goal when we are feeling depressed is to make sure that we are doing and asking for what WE need, not trying to please other people who might be pushing us to let them help us.
So, if you someone asks you how you are, let your answer reflect what you need in the moment.
Here are a few suggestions:
#1 – I’m fine.
Just because someone asks you how you are, that doesn’t mean you need to spill your guts to them. Feeling anything other than fine is not something that you have to share with someone you don’t feel comfortable sharing with.
For me, when I’m depressed and my mother calls to ask how I am, I always say I’m fine. I just don’t want to get into it with her. I know that having a conversation with my mother about my depression will be all about her trying to talk me out of it. And that is never helpful.
In other words, it’s okay to not always be honest about how you’re feeling. It is important, however, that if you’re not going to be honest, you are then willing to ‘walk the walk’ of feeling fine for as long as you’re with that person. Telling my mother that I am fine and then sulking around the house is just a lose-lose situation for both of us.
#2 – I’m really struggling.
Should you choose to be honest about your feelings then I would suggest being as simple and straightforward as you can. Telling someone that you’re really struggling, with or without a reason why, might be exactly what you need to say.
For many of us, just having someone acknowledge how we feel in the moment can help us alleviate our bad feelings. I think this is especially the case with our men. I know that if my man asks me how I am and I admit to him that I am feeling sad and he knowledges it, without trying to fix it, I always feel just a little bit better.
I also know that if I tell them I’m fine, and I’m not, everything gets way worse, fast.
So, even if you don’t feel like getting into it, telling someone you’re struggling might be just what you need in the moment.
#3 – I am depressed.
Admitting that you are depressed might be the answer that works for you. Talking to someone about your depression might be exactly what you need.
But remember, by sharing what is going on, you might be inviting the other person to feel like they need to fix you.
For many people, when faced with somebody who is struggling, they want to fix them right away, to make them feel better. Nobody likes to see anybody suffer and we feel like if we can help someone, we will all feel better.
So, be prepared to talk about what’s wrong if you share with someone what’s going on. That person might try, and fail, to help you and that just might put you in a worse place. But, at the same time, they could say exactly what you need to hear. It’s a bit of a risk, sharing deeply, but the rewards can be substantial.
#4 – I am depressed and I appreciate your asking but I need to take care of myself right now.
With this answer, you’re sharing with the questioner that you are feeling depressed but you are not inviting them to help you. You are acknowledging that they care, which is important, but you’re being clear with them that you don’t need them to fix you.
For many of us who are struggling with depression, we know when we are ready to start receiving help. At first, the feelings can be so deep that anything that anybody says to us seems authentic and doesn’t help.
If you’re clear with someone that they can’t help you YET, you will not only not be forced to sit through something that might make it worse but you will also let your friend off the hook for trying to fix something that’s not yet fixable.
I know when I’m feeling depressed I try to stay away from people because I don’t want to be confronted with the How are you? question until I am ready.
But life goes on, no matter how we’re feeling, and sometimes we just need to interact with people.
When that is the case, do what you need to do to take care of yourself. If you need help, ask for it. If you don’t want help, keep your cards close to your chest. When you are ready you can show them.
The best way for you to start feeling better is to take care of yourself, to recognize your needs and not worry about the needs of others. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way down the road to getting better.
If you have read this far you must really be struggling with your depression.
Let me help, NOW, before it gets worse!
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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.