Thursday, 2 August 2012

Saying "I'm Fine" When I'm Not

Yesterday I was chatting with an online friend - a mother who is lightyears ahead of me in wisdom and experience.  We were talking about coping with the stress of raising a child who is very medically complex.  My friend wrote "I've always felt like two people. The woman I present to the world ~ "I'm fine, thanks. I've got it all together." And the woman I am ~ "I'm falling apart inside, but I'm holding it together on the outside."

This is the result of facing my worst fears, and experiencing my worst fears as reality, during my entire adult lifetime. As I age, I find I am less inclined to pretend that I'm just fine, when a crisis occurs. My worst fears take the forefront these days, and I'm pretty aggressive about it."

I began to reflect on how often I have said "I'm fine" when in fact, I'm not.  When Nick was small, I remember feeling a terrible sense of betrayal when I admitted needing help at home, especially because in my country, the system is so overtaxed that one has to grovel and beg for even a few hours of home help.  It took me a long time of being exhausted and desperate to admit that I could not manage on my own.  All that time, I presented as being 'very together' and happy.  The words "I'm fine", I began to realize, were working against me and my family.  So, like my online friend, I began to experiment with "I am not fine".   A major family crisis in 2004-05 gave me the courage to be honest and forthright in expressing our family's needs.  Now, I have no trouble at all using the words 'family breakdown' or 'crisis' to get the attention of social service providers whose job it is to say 'no' to people who are 'fine'. 

Coincidentally, I came across an article today called "Putting the "I" in Caregiving".  There's some good advice there for those of us who say "I'm fine" too often for our own good.
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