I stand in the doorway of my guidance teacher’s office, legs trembling, heart pounding. I peek in, knocking softly. She catches my eye and smiles, telling me to take a seat. My knees bounce and I cannot look her in the eye but when she asks those dreaded questions, I blink back the tears in my eyes, swallow my pride and give her the answers. The real ones.
We spend so much of our lives living in the United States of “Fine”, occasionally taking a trip to the People’s Republic of “Okay”, plastering layer upon layer of “smile” on our faces with just a touch of “unfeeling robot” – it’s time to get out.
We’re only human, we all have our highs and lows and we all have feelings, so why do we pretend we don’t? We are living breathing beings, not machines. It’s fine – and in fact totally normal and healthy – to not be okay sometimes, to cry and hurt and need someone.
We spend such a long time locking up our feelings in a desperate attempt to “fake it til we make it” that we forget how to open up when somebody asks – letting somebody in seems nigh on impossible. We isolate ourselves in our own heads, building cages from neurones and bone and throwing away the key, building the weapons of our own destruction.
Opening up after shutting yourself off for so long is difficult, but it’s the only way to move forward. It’s important to remember that there will always be someone out there that will listen and care, whether that be a friend, a parent, a teacher or a doctor – if they’ve said that they’ll be there for you then maybe it’s time to take them up on that.
We get so used to lying that the truth tastes foreign and wrong, but once you start talking, once you start to break down the walls you built, the rest becomes much easier. Every time you tell the truth it feels a little more natural, a little less terrifying and bit by bit you begin to see all the things you deprived yourself of – trust, kindness and compassion.
So next time you’re about to say “I’m fine” or “everything’s okay”, just stop and think. Ask yourself, “am I really fine?” And if the answer is no, why not say so? We’re so good at making excuses, convincing ourselves that we aren’t important enough, we won’t be taken seriously or we just don’t have the time – but the truth is, we’re just afraid. Let me tell you that you are important enough, people will take you seriously and that your own health comes before anything. If you’re unsure about sending that email or knocking on that door, just take a deep breath and do it. The first step is the hardest, but it’s also the most important. Unlock the cage and set yourself free. Fake happiness is still the worst sadness, after all.