When You’re Not Really “Just Fine”

shutterstock_126460139I recently switched my therapist. The last one was nice enough, but I think that was partly it. She was way too nice. I want to leave therapy feeling challenged and introspective and not just have someone validate everything I say by nodding their head at me the whole time. I mean, it’s nice to have someone tell you you are right about everything, but that’s not therapy. That’s just friendship for hire.

And even my friends never tell me I am right about everything right away, so, as I scratch my head, I still wonder what you call therapy where you just talk to someone who tells you your shit doesn’t stink. I don’t know the technical term, but I think I can at least say it’s a big waste of my freaking time.

So, I switched therapists. And he’s not a cheap therapist. Meaning, I have to pay out of my pocket and he doesn’t accept insurance. But he came really highly recommended and after so long of going to therapy and just getting a bunch of head nodding from really nice people, I decided that I needed more.

Right away I knew that this would be a whole different ballgame. We started off by talking about my childhood and I got really emotional and so then I cried. And then I cried some more. He handed me some tissues and I talked while he pushed me in new directions and asked me some things I hadn’t really thought to answer myself in a really long time. He brought up some things that were somewhat traumatic and for a second I was ready to shut down. I mean, maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t so bad to just have a therapist who nodded their head at me a lot and told me I was awesome.

But I decided to truck through, because as I already mentioned, I was paying a shitload to be sitting in this chair to have him do something other than appease my ego. And I went down the path he pushed me down and I went deep and answered honestly. It was not pretty. I think we had moved to a second box of tissues at this point and I am pretty sure he was wondering how this hot mess had landed up in his office.

We ended the session and it brought up a lot of things for me, which were now just closer to the surface. I agreed to come back in and see him soon. But I also vowed to myself that I would show him a different side to me. I wanted to be in control of myself and not the blubbering, snot and tear stained individual who had brought all my clouds into his sunny little office that day.

And so I went back to my next appointment and this time I did not cry. I was totally put together, you will be all pleased to hear. Even when he asked me a few questions that I knew were borderline tear material, I reigned it in, took in a deep breath and fought through the pain. And I thought I was witty and charming and showed some of the better, sunnier parts of my personality to him.

But then he asked me something funny.

“Kiran. On a scale of one to ten, how happy would you say you are today?”

And I thought about it a little and exaggerated a tiny bit because I think that’s just expected on these things and said, “Well, of course, I have some things going on. But I would say I’m a solid 7. Definitely a 7.” I nodded to myself.

“Really?” he asked. “Because if I were to say it, I would say you looked more like a 3,” he said, meeting my eyes with his somewhat intense gaze.

“A 3?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. Maybe even a 2.”

“But if I am a 3 today, what do you think I was the first day I came to see you?”

“Well, I think it’s fair to say that you were pretty low that day, so closer to a 1,” he offered.

Now, let me be clear. There was no part of this conversation that was mean or asshole-ish or demoralizing. He was kind and caring in how he delivered this to me. It was just very, very honest.

“Is it because I’m wearing grey?” I asked, hoping that might have swayed him. I mean, maybe if I had worn a peachy sundress, I’d be more like a 5. Maybe even a 6.

He shook his head. No.

Oh.

The thing is, my way of giving myself a 7 was my way of saying “I am fine.” It’s what I tell everyone who asks me as I go about my day. “How are you?” they will say. And I will respond with my ever positive, “I’m great!” or “I’m fine!” or even, “Oh, just bloody fantastic!”

Isn’t that what the world wants to hear?

But on this day, with this particular doctor, I tried to tell him I was fine. And while I can get away with it with almost everyone else in my life, this doctor saw past the bravado of my false 7 and called me out on it.

I think about the empty “I’m fine”s that I give. Or the ones that I receive. And I wonder sometimes if it’s not incredibly important to maybe be a little more honest and let our loved ones and friends know that we too can see past the “Everything’s fab!” inertia for the times we know that it’s damn well not.

I know that one of the reasons I often default to “I’m fine” is because I don’t think anyone is really prepared to hear my real answer. And I’m not saying I need to list out all of the reasons I am NOT fine for the checkout boy at the grocery store next time he says, “Ma’am, how are you doing?” (First thing that was not fine there was that he just called me, Ma’am, thank you very much.)

The funny thing in trying to convince others sometimes that everything is just coming up roses, we often make ourselves believe the same thing. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to BE positive and to wear the rose colored glasses. I adore rose colored glasses.

But there is something wrong in not acknowledging certain truths. In hiding those truths behind empty smiles and peach colored sundresses and empty reassurances to ourselves and the ones we love that “everything’s fine” when sometimes, “everything’s not.”

I guess my point is this. I challenge you to be more honest with some of the people you love and to encourage them to do the same with you. It’s ok to be a 3 some days and you can try your best to show the world you’re a freaking 7, but you owe it to the ones you love sometimes to just say, “I’m a 3 today. I don’t know why and I don’t know what will fix it, but I’m a freaking 3.”

I realized pretty quickly, I wasn’t going to be really good at pulling the wool over my therapist’s eyes. So for now, he’s a keeper.

But just to be safe, I was thinking of wearing something a little brighter next time. Fuchsia, anybody?

17 Responses to When You’re Not Really “Just Fine”

  • Oooh, sounds like you made a good call on this one! He will challenge you to dig! Such great points. We do everyone a disservice with a cult and culture of “fine!”
    Anna Whiston-Donaldson recently posted…VertigoMy Profile

  • Peg says:

    Oh Kiran, how I relate to this. I gage within a milisecond if the person requires a “i’m fine” or can handle my crap…a very small group gets the truth and even then I start to catch myself after a few moments not wanting to be a downer. I’m glad you found a good therapist. I like mine too and she doesn’t sugar coat anything either (in a very kind, Jewish grandmother sort of way). It’s nice to have someone in my corner but not let me either stay in the negative or try to act like everything is okay when it’s not. Hang in there friend!! We definitelly need a beer soon. love and hugs, Peg

  • Steve Zima says:

    I inherited a special gift from me old mum. A gift that proved to be fatal for her. My mom instilled in me a credo that said that no one wanted to here anyone complain so just shut up and work out your problems.

    So I never open my mouth and tell anyone I have problems. I realize that if I did, who knows what might happen. Maybe people will hold a car wash for me and pay off my bills or fix my other issues. Instead everyone has a facade they view me through.

    A guy with no problems.

    Maybe I will force myself to be more open like you had to.

  • Robin
    Twitter:
    says:

    When people ask me lately, even at work, I say, “I’m okay.” Which is sort of my way of saying not really fine but I don’t really want to talk about it.

    Loved this.
    Robin recently posted…Stuck at the Second LevelMy Profile

  • Elaine A.
    Twitter:
    says:

    I like that you found a therapist that is better for you. Head nodding does nothing for us.

    It is easy to say “I am fine” and in situations like the kid at the grocery store, well it’s just better not to get into it, in my opinion. But those who love us need to know we are not just fine.

    Nice post about this Kiran. xo
    Elaine A. recently posted…Suicide SucksMy Profile

  • Great post, Kiran. I can relate on so many levels. I, too, need to be challenged. In order to face my demons, my fears and my sorrows I have to actually acknowledge they are there and be willing to talk about them. I find myself all to often stating that I am a 7 but I know it’s not true. Late night cry-fests with a carton of coconut milk ice “cream” prove otherwise. You make me want to write again… and seek therapy. ;) We need to get together soon.

  • Kerstin
    Twitter:
    says:

    Good for you – there is no need to settle. You need to do what’s best for you and finding the right therapist is the best possible step you can take :) xox
    Kerstin recently posted…Experience2014 – June Round-UpMy Profile

  • Jennifer says:

    I’ve learned that when I’m down and someone asks, “Are you okay?” to answer, “I will be.” Because that’s true. I may not be today or tomorrow or even the day after that, but I know that I will be.
    Jennifer recently posted…Splish, Splash, Summer – Happy Mama MovementMy Profile

  • celeste
    Twitter:
    says:

    Oh Kiran, I am so glad that you found a new therapist! I know too well how awful it can feel to sit in therapy and bleed all over someone’s carpet, but I also know how important it is to carve out that space. I hope you get to be a blubbering 1 or 2 many many days, so that you can be a real life 8 or 9 (and even 10!) for many many days to come. It’s hard work. And it’s painful. And we wish we didn’t have to do it. Ugh, therapy.
    <3
    celeste recently posted…It’s Such A Bummer About Body HairMy Profile

  • Tonya says:

    “I’m okay” is just a means to an end. It’s easy and makes us less vulnerable because most people either a) can’t handle sharing how they *really* are or b) know the person asking can’t. It’s sort of as simple and as complicated as that, huh?

    I like Jennifer’s response to the question… “I will be” At least it’s honest.
    Tonya recently posted…Measuring Up: A Simple & Fun Activity For Moms Who Need A MinuteMy Profile

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hon, you can always be honest with me too. Because if you’re a 3 and you need to tell someone you are, tell me. I can’t hold your hand or even hand you a tissue (damn distance), but I will listen. I don’t even charge. :)

    I’m glad you found a therapist who can TRULY help you. xo
    Alison recently posted…Things I’m Afraid To Tell You: Volume IIIMy Profile

  • Lady Jennie says:

    Ooooh. I like your therapist. Because if he can see through to who you really are, you might have a chance at seeing it too. And that’s happiness, even if life isn’t perfect.
    Lady Jennie recently posted…For the Lovers of BalletMy Profile

  • Andy Bland says:

    When I’m not fine, I tell them “no, I’m not.” But when I really am, I simply say, “yes, I’m fine.”
    Andy Bland recently posted…Auto ResponderMy Profile

  • Aarti says:

    Does he do phone appointments??

  • Andrea
    Twitter:
    says:

    Good post, Kiran. I fall into the “I’m fine” category a lot, I think. I’ve believed in my rose-colored glasses for a long time, but with age I’ve learned that that is no good for anybody. I’m glad you’ve found a therapist who challenges you to see past the I’m fine mentality. xoxo
    Andrea recently posted…What a Bunch of WeirdosMy Profile

  • Kamesh kairab says:

    In Gerald it is very common people ask “how are you doing”even when he or she does not know you. The common answer is fine.that I think is ok because one does not have to share the reality with strangers. One should share the actual feelings with those who will listen,appreciate and advise.
    The blog is really eye opener.

  • Roshni says:

    Glad you got someone who really listens!!
    Roshni recently posted…How to annoy your children!!My Profile

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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