Sunday, June 8, 2014

No Really...How Are You?

I had an interesting therapy appointment last week (of course, I find all of my therapy sessions interesting because my craziness always entertains me).

I walked in feeling pretty damn good.  It was a beautiful day outside and I'd just finished a walk with my oldest daughter, around our little main street and to a local frozen yogurt place where we sat outside and looked at the butterflies.  It wasn't too hot, wasn't too cold, and so by the time I dropped her off at home and headed to my counselor's office...I really had no complaints.

Which was why it shocked me that the second I walked in and she said, "How are you?" I started crying.

"This is so bizarre," I said, wiping my cheeks with the tissues she always has sitting next to my chair.  "I was feeling great when I walked in.  I have no idea why I'm crying right now!"

"Maybe because you're not as great as you think you are?" she suggested.

"Maybe.  But I really didn't have any burning issues on my mind."

"It could be that I'm just really wondering how you're doing.  And you know you can really tell me."


It's no secret that one of the worst things about losing a spouse is that we've usually lost the person who really cares about our day - who is as invested in our well-being as they are in their own.  We've also usually lost the person we would tell anything to...because, while we know friends and family members do actually care about us, there is also a part of ourselves that we keep hidden from most people.

A part of ourselves that we only unleash on a chosen few.

I've been thinking about this a lot for the last few days.  Not that this is directly linked to being in a romantic relationship, but for me...these last couple of years have been the longest stretch that I've ever been single.  It's been a long time since I've had the same person ask me every single day how I'm doing and really care about the answer.

For two years, I haven't had the same someone I can consistently unload on (even if it's for just a few minutes a day).  And that has started me thinking about the impact of that on my overall mental health.

Now, everyone is different and we all have different needs.  Some people are better at handling things on their own and some people need more personal interaction.  I fall into a strange category - I actually think I need someone to interact with on a daily basis, but have somehow crafted a life that doesn't allow it.

And that could be the root of many of my problems.

I've been wondering these last few days...if I had had someone all this time who had been asking me about my day and who allowed me to let off some pressure a little bit at a time...would I have experienced the crushing anxiety that began (or climaxed) months ago?  Would that have saved me this life-altering experience or would it have happened anyway?

I don't know.

But the fact that I was sailing through a beautiful day only to collapse into tears the moment someone safe asked me how my day was going...makes me wonder what an impact that simple question from someone who really cares might have on us all.


  1. I can't count the number of times other widows and widowers have shared their dread of hearing "How are you?" from people who don't really, really want to know. Reading this post about the absence of that ONE personal, connected, unconditional confidential recipient of your innermost thoughts felt as if you'd taken a giant Sharpie to a chart of my widowhood and drawn circles and arrows pointing out "THIS is why loneliness still rears its ugly head even when you're busy doing things for other people." Like you, many days I've felt "great," but when I heard that question ... that did it. After more than three and a half years, it can still send my tear ducts into overflowing, depending on how it's asked and by whom. (Other widowed friends have said they answer,"I'm fine" with their words, but their unspoken definitions of "F.I.N.E." equal something like "Frustrated. Insecure. Not myself. Emotional.")

  2. 22 years later...I'm still fine.