“Hey how are you?”
“I’m good thanks, I´m really fine.”
Really now, how many times have you told your friends this without meaning it? Not only have you not meant it, it has been a complete lie? You are not fine. Not even close. You feel broken, lonely in your parenting, not even close to the person you want to be.
Sometimes we don´t even realise we don´t mean it, until later, when we really do feel fine. This was me. This still IS me, from time to time, but now I am getting better at noticing the signs.
After the birth of my first child I felt completely overwhelmed. I thought everyone with a newborn did. At one check up the midwife made me fill in a questionnaire about my mental wellbeing. I failed. The midwife looked at me with concerned eyes and asked me how I was? Fine! I answered. Of course I was fine. Did I cry 10 hours a day, yes. Did I feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of caring for this beautiful little bundle with no instruction manual, hell yes. But I was still fine. Or at least I would be, right?!
I can be quite convincing when I need to be so the midwife took my word for it and let me go home, with my screaming little bundle in my newly purchased push chair. I pushed the push chair home, and I pushed on through with caring for that bundle, with as much support as any husband can give their “lost” wife”.
Fast forward a couple of years and beautiful bundle number two arrived. This time though I felt, if not fine, at least not too bad. Then it hit me again. The feelings of having your head constantly in dark clouds of thunder. But because it creeps up on you slowly you have time to get used it, so again I continued as if I believed my own words. “I´m fine”, I continued. Then suddenly I was not. One evening my husband found me sobbing in bed, our two children playing in the living room. I just didn´t want to continue anymore. This parenting thing was simply too hard for me! My poor husband, trying to understand what had happened during the 10 hours he had been at work, looked at me, uncertain of what to do.
The next day I went to my doctor and got some medicine to help me feel better. It really helped.
Now when people ask me how I am, I tell them: It´s hard. Really hard. But oftentimes I am also, actually, fine!
Despite appearances, I am actually a very open person. When I started talking about how I really felt and how I had asked for medical help, it turned out I was not the only one who felt this way, or indeed the only one who had sought medical help.
Now hang on a minute! These were the same people that posted the most beautiful, happy family photos on social media. I was confused.
This is when I realised just how sophisticated our “lies” have become. Sure, the face to face “I´m fine”, is still a clear winner, however you can now back it up with photographic “evidence”.
Time and time again I hear friends talk about their friends and how they are going through a really hard time with their husband or are struggling with their children. As we all do! And I am not saying that we should air all our “dirty laundry” on social media, but isn´t it a little bit odd the way we only see smiley, happy, positive reflections on social media?
The CEO of The Happiness Research Institute (yes, it´s real) Meik Wiking has said this: “Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like. We take in to account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality.”
“If we are constantly exposed to great news, we risk evaluating our own lives as less good.”
May I suggest we take more photos of our everyday lives and fewer of those “perfect” moments. Or better yet, close down your computer, look away from your smartphone and look up at the sunny sky, skip and hop instead of walk to work, just for today. Because if there is anything those really, really hard days have taught me, it is that tomorrow is another day.