I’ll be straight with all of you. I haven’t felt well at all lately, but I’m only mentioning this because I feel that I can no longer feign wellness. My last post was a clear indication that I can no longer keep up the front. Quitting the “front” is a huge relief and writing about this is cathartic.
I know that feigning wellness is not solely practiced by people suffering from mental illness. I think many people (or even most people) out there have covered up their true feelings at times, cloaked behind a false smile, especially in front of others. Maybe you’re having physical discomfort, like headaches or stomach distress. Maybe it’s just stress that’s getting to you. You’re at work or at the store and see someone you know and they say “Hi Jack. How are you doing?” and in response you say (automatically), “Good, and you?” And they either don’t respond to your follow-up question, or respond in kind.
I can’t speak for people in other countries, but I know that in the U.S. it is almost expected that you say you’re “Fine”. No matter what. Saying otherwise is often met with silence, or a quick “I’m sorry to hear that,” and a swift move on.
How about the people you are closest to. Do you sometimes feign wellness with them, too? Maybe your spouse dislikes negativity. Or you don’t want to worry or shock your kids, or parents. But if you do speak the truth, maybe sometimes you get sympathy and offers for help to relieve your discomfort. Other times do you hear this one? “Well, Jack, keep your chin up.”
Grrrrrrrrrrrr! I’m sorry, but growing up I must have heard “Keep your chin up” about 1,000 times. Boo-hooing, depressive talk, anxious talk, frustration, and other similar feelings were discouraged; sometimes went in one ear and out the other, other times met with anger, oddly enough. No, it was better to keep these feelings to myself and instead, process the pain in my brain, or in the form of teeth grinding, fists tightening in my stomach, or even the occasional scream into the pillow.
The fact of the matter is that most people really don’t want to hear negativity. I’m writing that I wish I could freely express myself at all times, but I know I can’t always. I’ve got to hire a therapist and/or a psychiatrist to unload this stuff on. Yeh, my spouse will hear it, but my fear is that too much of this negative honesty will either push him away or (more in my husband’s case) make him feel depressed or frustrated, too. It can be contagious.
My last blog post was a clear “dump” of my depressive feelings. I was sort of relieved that some people responded with understanding. I know that when I (and others) feel unwell it does help a little to get sympathy. I also know that soliciting too much sympathy over too long of a time gets old, too. Though some sicknesses are so severe that there is just no way of feigning wellness, others that fluctuate in severity sort of do call for breaks in expressed misery.
The catchphrase “Fake it ‘til you make it” is also pretty commonly voiced to people suffering from various illnesses or discomforts. Unlike “Keeping your chin up”, I have even heard therapists recommending this strategy for recovery. Maybe they don’t always say the catchphrase exactly, but in a roundabout way. Mine has said for me to push myself to do things and then rate my satisfaction with mastery at the end. Sometimes I do get some satisfaction; sometimes I feel the same or worse. Funny, nine days ago I wrote a blog post called “When you push yourself to do what you don’t want to do…you’re usually glad you did, after the fact.” I certainly felt it worked then. Actually, I think it is a better strategy, in general, than allowing yourself to waste away or drown in self-pity.
Any thoughts on any of this? Do you find yourself feigning wellness a lot?