I had another appointment with my psychiatrist today to discuss how my meds are working out for me and how I’ve been doing overall. We talked about not just my mental health, but mental health in general. I used to do a blog every year where I’d pick and choose certain words and phrases that people use that irritate the piss out of me. A few of the recurring ones were: “random,” “literally,” “everything happens for a reason,” and “it is what it is.” If we one day saw the eradication of those words I’d be ebullient.
She and I agreed that one of the worst words in the English language is the word “fine.” It’s just so blasé and unenthusiastic. No one trusts you when you say that you’re fine, but we accept it anyway because we don’t really want to know how the other person is doing. I was reading an article some time ago that was written by a German who lived in America for a year. He was surprised when someone asked how he was doing and he proceeded to tell them about his day, but they wandered off to work on his order in the middle of him giving them the run down of how things were going. This isn’t what we do in America. We don’t care. The common exchange goes as follows:
“How are you doing today?”
“I’m fine, and you?”
“I’m doing alright.”
You can add your own little flavor to it if you’d like, but the trick is to never get too personal. You never tell a person that your dog just died or your mother’s cancer has resurfaced and you don’t know how to deal with it. We deal with other people on such an impersonal level. I think that’s the American way: get in, get out, leave me alone because I’ve got my own problems. I can’t speak for other countries and cultures because I’ve never been outside of the United States, but here in this country we care nothing about the goings on of other people’s lives. I’d be lying if I said I’m not guilty of it. I, too, expect just a quick exchange of words when I’m at the store and kind of tune people out when they start rambling about their day or what’s bothering them while I’m in the check-out line.
Maybe it’s just due to living in a society that’s so rushed and so focused on getting done what we need to get done that we don’t focus on those around us. As Americans we know not to open up to total strangers because total strangers don’t give two shits about us or our lives, but is that how we should be toward other people? The more I’ve grown, the more I don’t think so. I like to try to help people in any way that I can now because I know what it’s like to have a shit day, to have a shit week, to have shit going on in my head that I can’t seem to control.
Would it take a lot of time out of our day to pull someone aside that we overhear say they’ve had a horrible week and ask them if they’d like to talk about it for maybe five minutes? Is where you’re going or what you’re doing really that important? Do you really need to get to work thirty minutes early that you can’t take five minutes to maybe let someone unload for just a moment? In a country that’s so concerned about mental illness we don’t seem to care when it boils down to it. Actually listening to another human being could mean the difference between that person going home that night and resting peacefully and going home that night to stock up on ammunition for the next day when they go to the store to let the world know how they’re really feeling. “I’m fine” isn’t always just fine.