When We Pretend We’re Fine

you-got-this-card Kikki.K

So often, we don’t know what’s going on with people, behind closed doors. We bump into someone we know, give them a smile and a wave, “How are you?” we ask, and they say they’re fine. Very often, though, they’re not fine. We have no idea what is going on inside someone’s head and what’s happening in their life – grief, anxiety, fear, panic, depression, desperation. All hidden behind some small talk and a cheerful laugh.

I vividly remember a day when my daughter was around 2 months old, walking through my local town, pushing the pram, in the late afternoon, just as it was getting dark. When someone I know spotted me and asked me how I was doing, I smiled my biggest smile and said “Oh fine!”. We had a brief chat and then as I walked away, I had tears in my eyes and all I could think was “I’m not fine”.

Of course, we can’t just walk around, telling every Tom Dick and Harry our innermost thoughts. Where would it end?! I obviously felt it wasn’t appropriate to offload on that person about my new mum exhaustion and confusion (and actually, what I now recognise was post-natal depression) and sometimes, it does us the world of good to paint on a smile and pretend that everything is A-OK.

But it’s important to remember that what other people tell us about how they are and what’s actually happening, aren’t always the same thing. And it’s important to remember that when we haven’t heard from a friend in a while, it might not be because they’re being a crap friend. If someone is behaving a little oddly, we should give them the benefit of the doubt – we don’t know what’s going on in their lives, what they’re dealing with every day.

I was reminded of this today, reading this incredibly brave article about miscarriage on the Guardian. I used to work with Amy, the writer of this piece, and although I don’t see her often, I bumped into her at an event around four months ago. We had a quick chat, and she asked me about the five-year-old. She seemed happy. I had no idea that she was going through this private hell. Amy writes: “I want you to know why I was boring, and then sad. Why I ignored invitations, was sober on hen weekends and miserable at birthdays. Why I left rooms abruptly and steamrollered conversations. Why I lied every time you asked, ‘How are you? What have you been up to? How was New York?'”

I’ve cancelled plans with lots of patient, understanding friends recently, thanks to the hormones that kick my ass and bring on depression and anxiety, for around ten days a month. I sometimes tell my friends why I’m cancelling on them, but sometimes I make an excuse (I even bore myself talking about how I feel so much).

So the next time a friend cancels on you, or you think it’s a while since you’ve heard from them, don’t get cross. Check they’re OK, and even if they say they’re fine, remember they might be putting on a brave face.



  1. Helen
    February 18, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    So very true x

  2. February 18, 2016 / 4:49 pm

    This is a lovely post, we all need that nudge don’t we to remember not to judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance, we never know what they are going through! I remember going to Britmums a few years ago just after I had my second miscarriage and painting on a smile around all the mummy bloggers with their babies in tow. I do talk about my experience with baby loss and PND – I’m still suffering with the later a bit now and like you my cycle plays havoc on my emotions at that time of the month, at the moment I’m trying to balance it all with some supplements at the moment which to help – anyway! Loved this and thanks for the reminder! X

  3. February 18, 2016 / 5:36 pm

    A really great post and so true. We are all very good at putting on a brave face. xx

  4. February 19, 2016 / 8:05 am

    thank you so much for this brave post, it made me feel tearful, thinking about how life is so much hard than we often let on. I’m really grateful to have a few good friends where we can tell each other the real reason why we cancel sometimes. Thanks for reminding me to look below the surface of life.

  5. February 19, 2016 / 8:44 am

    Great post and a reminder that fine isnt always just that x

  6. February 19, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    I think it’s great that you’re willing to be open about what you’ve been through and what you’re going through. I experienced culture shock and the expectation that you most leave interactions at surface level definitely factored into that. I can see both the pros and cons of the constant social exchange “How are you?” “I’m fine” though. I agree it’s important to remember that when friends drop out of the social scene, anything could be happening and to be willing to be there in whatever capacity they want you to be.

  7. February 19, 2016 / 7:15 pm

    I do this. And I know some of my friends do too. Thank you for this post, we should talk about these things more and not be afraid of honesty, but also be aware that people won’t always want to talk and share and sometimes they need space to just be.

  8. February 19, 2016 / 8:12 pm

    Amy’s post really resonated with me ( i read it on the train trying not to show the tears that prickled my eyes whilst I did ). That bit you quoted about ‘I want you to know why I was boring, and then sad’ is so true. I think you’re so brave talking about this & I truly hope you start to feel better but if you have times when you don’t then thats ok too xx

  9. February 20, 2016 / 12:29 am

    Have personal experience on this subject, I think good mental health is so important for women especially mothers! We need to get this out for everyone to be aware!

  10. Elaine
    February 20, 2016 / 1:21 am

    I do this everyday at the moment and no doubt will continue to do so for some time 🙁 Your post on this subject is amazing. Thank you

  11. February 21, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    This. This. I needed to read this today. Thankyou for putting it down x

  12. February 22, 2016 / 10:17 am

    This is so, so true. I can be the original Mrs Brightside sometimes when i really feel anything but. Hormones can be a bitch! xx

  13. February 22, 2016 / 3:33 pm

    This is such an important post.
    A friend of mine had a real go at me about a month ago, for not being interested enough in what was going on with her life. What had actually happened was that it was December, and something about December as a single person leaves me incredibly depressed – I still feel like I’m catching up now on the December funk. I gave her a bit of a pass as she’s not a parent but my feelings were really hurt: I think it’s so important if a friend is behaving oddly to realise that it’s most likely nothing to do with you and ask, can I help? Not say, you’re so selfish.

  14. February 23, 2016 / 5:14 am

    Love this and so true. I always try and think like this instead of writing people off and it’s such a shame others don’t. I wrote a post/poem about my anxiety recently to try and explain it as I’ve lost friends, am getting penalised at work and embarrassed daily because I look fine but really struggle some days. Thank.you for sharing x

  15. February 23, 2016 / 11:19 am

    Great post Alison and all so true. Been having days/weeks like this myself but its all too easy to forget that so is someone else x

  16. February 27, 2016 / 1:27 am

    It’s so hard isn’t it, I personally have been doing well for the most part but when I’ve had a few weeks with zero sleep and I’m struggling I always try and make a point of telling someone or at least sharing how I feel with a trusted family member just to talk things through – I find that helps. I think as people we usually always put on a front but that doesn’t really help matters

    Laura x

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