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How To Respond To “Are You Okay” When You Are Actually Not Okay

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Suffering from mental health issues, whether chronic or situational, is extremely enfeebling enough without worrying about how to deal with other people’s curiosity even if that curiosity is well-intentioned. 

Most of the time you’re shilly-shallying in admitting that you are in an emotionally fragile state and that is what tortures you to confront this question. 

CuriousKeeda presents you a guide to help handle this question in a way that will definitely work for you: 

1. The Intent Of The Questioner

Who is asking this question?

Is she or he someone very close to you whom you truly believe?

Is she or he a casual acquaintance who asks this question as automatically as one offers “God Bless You” after a sneeze? 

The wonderful rule of thumb is if you are unsure this person can be confided with your secrets or if you feel uncomfortable, don’t offer more than a cursory response.

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Cursory response means to give a polite non-answer that makes it clear that you don’t want to talk about this topic.

A few go-to answers to handle with such situation is: 

  • Many people are going through the tough times, let’s talk about the good things. 
  • Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Life is tough, so are we. Right?
  • I am hanging in! Thank you so much for asking. How are you doing?
  • Thank you for your concern, but I really appreciate you respecting my privacy. Have an amazing day. 

But if the questioner is someone you truly trust and is concerned about your welfare, you should discuss your mental health issues with him or her. 

2. Be Judgemental About Your Answer

Sometimes sharing your inner turmoil, even with a trusted bosom friend, can be painful for numerous reasons. Those who are feeling awkward with having mental health problems might react to “Are You Okay”  with a waggle of self-disgust. And, others find it painful to be asked “Are You Okay” because of the fear that if they start talking, it will be hard for them to stop.

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A few who want to know about your well-being are likely doing it because they are actually concerned about you. Family, close friends, and mental health practitioners (if you are consulting) are in your full confidence. This is your main support system. 

Discussing your problems with the main support system will not have any negative impact. 

3. Setting Up Boundaries

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Let me start with a story!

There was a person named Sarah and she somehow found a true listening ear in her neighbourhood, Beth. Beth kept on telling Sarah that she was blessed to be a listening ear. But Sarah was so scared of even getting on the elevator because she used to think that she might meet her and she’d end up asking “are you okay” with a deep sad expression on her face. 

So, in this situation, you need to set up boundaries yourself. 

Even if the intent is good, you don’t have to share your inside battle with anybody.

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An avid researcher who aims to uncover all major political and business events through a wide lens. From understanding "breaking news" to reading impactful research papers, she always endeavors to contribute something new with her writing. She has presented her work at world-class platforms such as CCI (Competition Commission of India), IIT-D's Industry Day (organized by Indian Institute of Delhi), etc. Her serious demeanor changes in front of the Indian cuisine and she wishes to taste every possible cuisine in her life while she travels all exquisite corners of the world.