Since Tuna died, the question “How are you?” has been hard to answer. I’ve considered answering with, “Never been worse. Living my worst nightmare, you?”
If you’re not sure how to answer the question “How are you doing?” when people check in with you during isolation, it’s totally normal for those going through grief and trauma.
My suggestion (since you asked) is to be honest. Don’t say you’re doing great when actually you can’t stand the sound of your cat eating for one second longer. Don’t say you’re fine when really you’re ready to douse the house in bleach because it smells like PEOPLE, your couch is developing permanent butt-indents, and you can only go so far on a stationary bike. If someone checks in and you say all is well, but really you’re having conversations with your dog while watching the Golden Girls (true story), try a more honest answer. Just say it: “My anxiety is through the roof and I need some help with coping right now.”
For me, after Tuna, I started saying “We’re getting by,” or “I’m doing ok,” or “Doing my best.” Those are the family friendly versions of, “I’m living in hell and can barely cope right now.” People don’t want to hear that. Most people don’t know where to put that, it gets awkward, so you water it down.
During these times right here, when we’re contemplating the pros and cons of wearing a fishbowl on our heads to go toilet paper hunting, we might answer the question, “How are you doing?” with the answer, “I’m doing as well as can be expected.” Or, “I think I’m ok, but are you experiencing depression and worry, too?”
Guess what? It’s ok that you’re experiencing that.
If you’re new to grief and trauma (because that’s what the world has been plunged into – – the cold world of drastic, traumatic change), everything you’re feeling is normal. If you’re crying, that’s OK. If you’re acting really weird and loopy, that’s OK. If you’re escaping, that’s OK. If you’re trying to laugh at it all, it’s cool. If you’re over-achieving, that’s fine too. Just be sure to come up for air. Be sure to answer the questions with brutal honesty. Don’t insta-filter your pandemic state. Hashtag no filter that answer: “I’m freaking out, and I need to see your face”, “I want to know what to do when I feel depressed and lonely”… You get the idea.
So this is where I say, “Hang in there!”, which is a watered down version of, “Yeah, this is a really freaking twilight zone state the world is in and I have nothing helpful to say. At all. Hang in there.”
Please talk to your people. Face time. Message. Call. And if you don’t have people, call a church, or look at the Google thingy for a counseling hotline–some are free–just to talk to someone who will listen.
If you’re feeling like hurting yourself, call 1-800-273-8255. Go here if you need to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. I’m not asking you. I’m telling you.
Sorry, the world is closed. The whole world is just hanging in there until further notice. People tell me that it gets better, this grief crap. People are nice. I guess I’m not people… I’m telling you that it doesn’t get better, just different. It never goes away–we’ll all be changed by this crisis–but when further notice comes, we’ll get to let go.