"I'm Fine"

"I'm Fine"

“I’m fine.”

Two simple words.

They were spoken without any effort. Nothing to worry about here. Spoken without any thought. No problems to report. Spoken without any truth to them.

‘I’m fine.”

The two words that almost killed me...

At the turn of the last decade, “I’m fine” was my mantra. It was an automatic reply to anyone who asked how I was. It became the attitude I tried to force my inner-self to believe. How could anything be wrong? I had a good job, a loving wife, a caring family and all the indicators of a successful life. Yet, I wore a smile that masked a broken spirit. I felt empty inside. I was 29, an alcoholic, and suicidal. Somehow over the preceding years, I had lost myself and slowly became alcohol dependent. I was not a daily drinker, but when I drank, it was mostly to oblivion, and the time between drinking sessions was slowly becoming shorter and shorter.

Towards the end of my drinking, it was clear to those close to me what problems alcohol was causing me externally; however, what nobody could see were the internal problems I thought alcohol was solving. The paradox of my existence was that my heart was crying out for help, but the only words I had the ability to say were “I’m fine”. I used these simple two words as a shield to protect myself by keeping others out,but in reality, it was a barrier stopping the help I desperately needed from getting in. There were many missed opportunities to get help during my emotional descent, opportunities I was too afraid to take. I had to reach rock bottom before I was able to get the help that changed my life. I had to get to the point where the pain of carrying on the way I was had become too painful, so painful that the I was beginning to only see one way out. The pain was ultimately what led me to seek help.

I remember the day that I first sought help. I was sat in my car outside a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, full of fear and anxiety to the point where I could barely breathe. Deep inside,I knew that the fear I was feeling was less than the fear of going back to the life I had been living; something had to change. And, something did change that day, although I wasn’t to realise it until many years later.  

This is not a cautionary tale about alcohol, a confession about addiction, or the story of my journey through recovery. Rather, this is a message of hope; this is someone reaching out to say you are not alone. Although my struggles related to alcohol, through my voluntary work in recovery I have had the opportunity to meet and work with people who suffer from a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from mental health to domestic violence. A recurring theme across this spectrum are the barriers to seeking help. These barriers are both internal and external. One of the key internal barriers is embarrassment, however, there is no shame in asking for help. We all have the same ambitions, emotions, fears and insecurities. I allowed my issues to reach a critical point before I reached out for help, but it doesn’t have to be that way for you. You don’t have to wait for a crisis to seek help as I did. Today, there is an increased awareness of mental health and other key issues, but there are still too many people struggling in silence. Have you ever looked at your attitude towards seeking help? What does the voice inside say when you need help?

‘What will others think of me, and what will they say?’

‘Will I be seen as mad or sad?’

‘Other people don’t understand what I am going through.’

‘I am alone in this.’

‘You are not meant to share these kinds of things’

‘I don’t want to trouble others.’

‘Admitting I need help is a weakness.’

Do these questions sound familiar, have you ever had these conversations with yourself? Unfortunately, too many people will have had this dialogue in their heads and then never seek out the help they need. Thinking like this is not unique. Talking about our issues does not come naturally to most of us. Many feel all alone without every properly trying to reach out. We convince ourselves that no other person can understand what we are going through.

In some cases, it is fear that blocks us because the issue of mental health, drugs or alcohol can be seen as taboo – it forces us to isolate and hide our issues. On the surface, when we say “I’m fine”, or we question ourselves based on how we will be viewed, we may believe that we are ‘strong’ or we are ‘saving face’, but this is an illusion. What these ideas are saying is that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It makes us feel that we should hide our vulnerabilities, and to keep our issues a secret. There are many services and people out there who are willing to help, but with this attitude, you can have the best help in the world; however, it will not matter if people are not able to get help. We have to change this way of thinking so that as a community, we can learn that it is ok to ask for help.

It is time for a change; let’s take the stigma away from reaching out. Let us educate ourselves to understand that fear and vulnerability can be turned into strength for individuals, families and the community. When you are struggling, saying “I’m fine” can be the most dangerous words in the world. Let’s help, support and guide those who are in need. The people that need a helping hand but might be too afraid to ask. I reached out like many others, and it saved us. A room full of strangers helped change my life. There is real strength and freedom that comes from sharing your vulnerabilities. There are other people out there who have struggled like you and overcome their issues. If you are suffering, we are here to tell you that you are not alone. Bring your issues into the light and get the help you need – you don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. Get help; there are plenty of services out there. Get better and be the example or inspiration for the next person. Even if you are not personally struggling with any issues but know someone who is, reach out and support them. Let them know they are not alone. That there is no shame in getting help. Having a problem is not the end of the world. We can all bounce back from these issues and achieve amazing things. I reached out, and it saved my life. I learnt that I was not alone, that I could overcome my struggles, be vulnerable with others, and be an example for others who need help.

No more “I’m fine.”

download now