When You Asked How Are You, I Accidentally Answered I’m Fine

I’m not talking much about what’s going on, but it’s on the edges of everything I do. And when I’m not doing, I’m drowning.

Does it even matter what is causing the darkness?

I don’t know. I wish that I wrote anonymously so I could tell you and hide from everyone else.

But I hide from most everyone anyway so don’t feel left out. I answer I’m fine. I’m fine on my couch curled up in a ball alternating between breathing and crying, frantically calling my husband until I get no answer and find myself sitting on my hands promising myself it will pass.

And it does. For an hour.

Mostly, I walk around waiting for someone to say or do the wrong thing so I can scream at them like I can’t scream at my children. When there’s no one to blame, I find those who are to blame for other things. I hate them so I can hate something that isn’t my life.

I am awake until well past midnight every night except for the nights I can’t keep my eyes open past 8 p.m..

When I don’t sleep, the morning world develops a film that keeps it at bay. The sounds are blurry and kind until I hit the moment usually around 2 p.m. where my body whispers I’m human and I need to sit. Suddenly, the pebble in my shoe is a nail, and I cannot stop the pain.

I alternate between bottomless sympathy and blinding frustration until my husband comes home from work and I hide behind my phone until bedtime.

When I stare at the ceiling in the soft darkness crying for my weakness, for my lack of sleep, for my lack of faith, for my lack of caring. And for my guilt. Oh my God, the guilt.

And it doesn’t matter who knows or doesn’t know why I am sad and angry and small. No one can fix it.

The darkness is the same for me as for you. The way the world grows narrow distant like looking through a telescope from the wrong end. If you have traveled this road, you have traveled this road. The cause or cure matter less than the road signs.

I see the pinpricks of light. Sometimes the light is Make Dinner. Sometimes the light is Call a Friend. Sometimes the light is Brush Teeth. I gather up these lights like berries in a basket and when I finally fall asleep someone must steal them to lay out the path again for me because every morning there it is again.

But it’s the only way out. Even if I’m mostly going in circles.

When you asked how are you, I accidentally answered I’m fine.

I’m usually not a liar. I’m just that tired.

Being fine is my reflex.

The darkness is familiar because I’ve been here before. I have come for many reasons. Have you have been here, too? The place of accidental fine. The place of tiny light berries. The place of loneliness. The place of screams. Where Why Me and Get Over It grow tall like sunflowers.

I am amazed at my body’s ability to work when my mind is fighting off itself. Where does it put the dead? Or maybe, why haven’t some of these thoughts died yet?  I’m fighting so hard.

I once described myself as a tornado, whirling up others in my drama and fun until I moved away to wreak havoc on someone new. But tornadoes are not constant. They appear and disappear. And the tornado isn’t even me. It’s life. Appearing.

It’s me, disappearing.

I miss the light.

I miss the normal.

I know that the hate will kill me before the darkness does. So I love others. I move forward and around and sometimes I stand still holding my own hand. Which is like holding my children. They are so many pieces of me. Walking around. Bumping into the mean angry world where my hands cannot protect them.

I am not fine.

I wish I knew how far from fine I am.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

49 thoughts to “When You Asked How Are You, I Accidentally Answered I’m Fine”

  1. You are so right, it doesn’t matter what your darkness is about, it is painful, regardless. I think of you all often – hoping you have some of your burden lifted.

  2. Alex,
    Hugs. I’m sorry. May you find more light berries along your route. May your circles calm and sooth. May you find love and peace.

    I’ve been reading you for a long time now, and I don’t say this lightly. I think this is one of your most moving, best written pieces. I hesitate to say that, since it seems to detract from the subject. You have talent. May that be a light for you too.

  3. First off, I hurt for you. I’m a long time sufferer of this sort of thing. Just click to the link of my blog, if you need that affirmed.

    That said, while I understand your choice to not give detail here, may I suggest being anonymous over at Band Back Together? You’ll get amazing support and no one has to know it’s you. Kind of a win in that way.


  4. Honey, have you tried antidepressants? I am very concerned about you. I always say U.S. citizens say “I’m fine.” even if they just lost their (fill in the blank). Canadians could have won the lottery and you say how are you and they will say “Not bad.” Get those pills. Love and hugs.

  5. Alex, I am so sorry your are going through this. I don’t know if you are currently seeing a therapist or on medication but if not, please know there is no shame in either. There is a world of help out there for you and when you are in a dark place, the sooner you seek it, the better.

    I am thinking about you and hope the darkness lifts soon.

  6. I don’t know what’s going on, Alex, but I’m so sorry for your pain. And yes, the pain is isolating. And yes, sometimes the isolation is self-inflicted because we hide because we’re trying so hard to be fine. It’s crazy that way.

    Wishing you days of being closer to fine.

  7. I know this isn’t the right thing to say, but this post is beautiful. I’m in awe that you can take something so painful and wrap it in such somber beauty. The honesty here is palpable and so moving. I don’t know if you can find any solace in that, but it says something about your spirit than you can find/unleash the beauty in agony.

    Also, sometimes, even when I can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, I can sometimes see a slight lightening of the tunnel, which allows me to at least believe there might be a light at the end of it.

  8. Alex, I am so sorry to hear of your pain. There are some good suggestions in the above comments. I, too, hope you will soon find a way to hold on to those bits of light you gather in your basket.

    Thinking of you and sending hugs.
    Take care, friend.

  9. You’ve managed to take the pain that plagues you and you’ve turned it into a beacon of light and hope for others. Know that I’ve been there in the darkness, searching for the light. Know that eventually, the pinpricks of light will become bigger and bigger. And that someday, the sun will shine on your face again.

    Hugs to you and your family.

  10. You’re not a liar. Being fine is everyone’s default.

    I’m here whenever for whatever. Not that that helps but…you know, if it ever does, the offer stands.

  11. you are right. I understand this deeply. I wish there was something I could say to make it better, but really? You are right…you just have to go through the darkness–whatever it is–until the other side comes. And you have to trust and BELIEVE that the other side is THERE waiting.

    You can’t lose hope in the darkness.

    let me know if you need to talk.

  12. I was just like this back in December (hence the big changes I have undertaken). It sucks to not know why you burst out into tears or why you are not fine. Poor Scott got it most of the time (because I could not yell at the kids and I had held it in all day at work). I ended up seeking help. I knew I could not going on putting on my happy face and pretending to be fine.
    I will say that it is important to force yourself to ask for help from family and friends… it is tough though to admit it (at least it was for me). You know where I am… and most days I need to get out and vent to… so just let me know.

  13. Alex, I am crying for you. And… I have you know I was reading this during the earthquake. 🙂 Please come over my house to hang out. T, N, and E can have a playdate. I love you, dear.

  14. I don’t have a lot of experience with depression but I know what it feels to have your mind work against you. I fight with anxiety and THE RAGE. I just had to up my prozac dose and for me it was helpful. I love what you said about berries of light. I hope you find your way out of this – I love reading your blog and your unique perspective on life. Hang in there.

  15. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know where you are because I have been there and I’m sure i’ll be going back sometime soon – when it happens, I have no control over but it’s a black hole that destroys everything in it’s path. Keep searching for the “light berries” and make it through each day trying to find small scraps of peace until it passes. It always does, even though it never seems like it will. (hugs)

  16. Hi Alex. So sorry you are going through this. Depression is awful and I have been there myself. It takes a lot of courage to admit to others that you are not fine. I hope you are able to navigate through the darkness and get to the light soon.

  17. Very brave post. You are not alone Alex! you are talented, smart, and funny, and happen to suffer from a disease that affects millions of others. Always here for you.

  18. Honesty is a rare light these days. Thank You. More of us exist there quietly than is admitted and “the guilt” well… that’s as familiar as oxygen isn’t it? As far as we’ve come, parenting young children isn’t the community event it used to be and I think that’s where it comes from. My own personal opinion. I have LOTS to say about that. TRUST ME… you are not alone… not even a little. Lemme buy you a drink..because… this too shall pass.

  19. It is hard to not be fine but say that you are.

    The word “fine” feels like a lie, but to put more honest words to the difficult feelings is even harder.

    Please know that I continue to think of you and pray for you so very often. I hope your load is lessened soon.

  20. Oh, oh, oh!

    I can’t describe how much emapthy I am feeling for your right now…just know that I am FEELING it! I’ve all but abandoned my poor little blog because my own world is crumbled into a gajillion pieces. And I put on A Face so I can face the day. So I can bring home a check and feed my kids. So I can keep breathing in and out.

    Another day has come and gone. You are not alone in this strange darkness. Search hard for the tunnel out of here. You are appreciated and needed.

  21. I have been a reader since I found your site and appreciated your approach to life, kids, and politics at large. I have never been moved to comment publicly for any site, but this one made me sit down and type. I find you are able to express yourself in a humorous way when you so desire. I also find that you are able to illustrate through your words. I just wish you didn’t have so much pain to illustrate. The post is beautiful and I feel for you. I pray for you. I also hope that you are journaling to yourself (use a password if you must). I hope that you can find 5 things to be grateful for each day. This was a tip from my preacher and it really does force you to see more positives in your life. I pray that you find someone, professional or not, who can be there to listen, to offer support, and not leave you wallowing alone in frustration, fear, and anger. I hope you find the berries of light really soon.

  22. First, hugs. I am “fine” too. It amazes me that people cannot simply look at my face, my sad, sad eyes and see the hurt hiding in there. But people like “fine” as an answer. And even if they don’t, often times it’s a situation that they can nothing to help anyway – so what does it matter if you say fine or not?

  23. My heart aches reading this post. I can feel your pain through your words. I have been in that dark place before, and yes, told others I was fine. Not wanting to burden others with my problems. Going to work everyday, making sure my kids were clothes and fed, then lying awake for hours at night because I couldn’t turn off my brain. It is lonely there, but you are not alone. You have people all over the world praying for you, sending positive thoughts your way. You will get through this, whatever “it” is. And you will come out on the other side, stronger and wiser. Sounds cliche I know, but it happens. Sending you many hugs.

  24. Hey – you’ve been on my prayer list. You know, the last line in Psalm 88 is “darkness is my closest friend.”

    So godly men and women are no strangers to darkness – it’s not unusual to struggle that deeply. It only means you are human (and not shallow). I’ll send you some Scriptures on light if you ask me for them, but that might not be where you’re at right now.

    In my last post I wrote about deep darkness during one year I spent in NY. Now I look back at that from a place of lightness and joy and hope, so it almost seems like I was a different person. But I have been refined by that year and I know that another wave of darkness might very well engulf me. I also know that I’m tough enough to take it.

    Sending you love.

  25. *hugs* We’ve all been there at some point in time but may not have known that we are not alone. Thank you for letting us know we’re not alone and in turn – we will let you know that you are not alone. We are here for you, we understand. *HUGS*

  26. I know everyone is probably saying this, and I know you probably don’t believe it, but time. Time is what it takes. Time to get better. It will take a lot of time to pass before it does. And every once in awhile, when you think it’s gone, the pain will come back and kick you in the head, but by that point, at least you know it will retreat. Sometimes, a lot of fake normal can work wonders. I’m a terrible advice giver. Maybe I should just advise you eat some chocolate. Anyhow, be well. You are a light. We, out here, like you and are like you. It will get better.

  27. You will get there again. You will be back to fine. It may be a different “fine” than it once was but it will be back. Sending hugs until you see the light again.

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