‘Morning! How are you?’ – this was the greeting that I recall as my first cultural shock when I arrived in the UK to do my Masters Degree. I think it’s not really a shock, more like cultural amazement and it’s a little embarrassing, haha. So this question (I thought it was a question as where I come from when someone asks you how you are doing, they actually expect like a story of recent events in your life) was asked by one of out neighbours at the dorm, Tom, and I cheerfully proceeded to telling him my life story as response to which he did seem a bit surprised. It wasn’t until later that I realised ‘How are you doing?’ is just another form of ‘Hello’ and only requires a short comeback such as ‘Good, and you?’ to which you almost never get an answer, haha. I think another expression I found absolutely bizarre was the response ‘Not too bad’ to which I initially was responding with ‘Why bad, what happened….?’ Oh, dear!
Anyway, I think to a huge extent situations and environment shape the everyday language we use and so the pandemic and the quarantine have both given a new meaning to previous expressions and to certain words. Apart from the usual ‘stay safe’ and ‘hope your family is healthy’ there is also the question ‘How are you coping?’. According to Dictionary.com coping means ‘to face, struggle and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner’. The nature of this question somehow shows care about your psychological well-being while acknowledging the enormous mental burden that the situation has put on you. And just a text, just an email, a little message or wave has the power to show concern and share the struggle and make you feel less alone in all this. That’s why we now check on each other, because we know we are not okay, despite whatever we tell ourselves, and because it feels a bit warmer that someone else knows that and they take the time to ask the question.
Generally with me I am okay until I’m not. I don’t think a middle ground exists. Throughout most of the time I do everything, all my tasks, with great energy and determination. And that’s no trouble at all. Unfortunately there are days that are not like that. When a little thing can be utterly upsetting. It may trigger a memory or an experience and it’s all downhill from there. But I don’t like talking about my lows. I don’t like showing weakness. And I like dealing with my own problems on my own. It’s just the way I am.
A few years back I was feeling really low, first time in my life that I felt like I might actually need some help. I was having a check at the doctor for something else and asked them if I can be directed to a specialist to help me deal with my mental health. The doctor just said I’d have to call reception on a different day and book another appointment, couldn’t have looked less concerned. So I didn’t. I got out of it after a while but someone else might have not been so lucky. I also didn’t know about the existence of charities that can actually help you get through a difficult time. I found that your strongest weapon agains the monsters of the mind is your own will to get better – you need you to save you from you.
A few links below of people who will listen:
Mind, the mental health charity
Stay safe, my dear friends.