A coded question, that in some circumstances, is a call for help.

When struggling with some variety of mental health problems, it’s often reinforced by support circles of professionals, friends and family, that reaching out and talking – to real live people – is very important. That defusing the stress, catastrophising, urge to do something destructive, is best done by reaching out and talking to a trusted person.

It really is outstanding advice.

The trouble however, is when people are in a particularly low phase of whatever mental health condition burdens their shoulders and sits like a stone in their belly, reaching out is really, really hard. It takes a lot of energy to ring someone and tell them you’re not doing well – and probably can’t even express why in words. The malaise just sits there and may have no known reasons. And for so many in the mental health community, there is a sense of burden we carry, and sharing problems, issues, emotions, stress, is exhausting. Quite possibly impossible..

When depression and anxiety wrap their creepy little fingers around the heart and soul, the desire to reach out is almost non-existent. Self-care feels utterly pointless. But after working with professional support teams long enough, it’s possible even in the darkest of moments, to remember the occasional skill. There are so many tips and tricks and tools and strategies for managing a decline, but remembering them and choosing to use them during a low moment is problematic. But a single tool, well practiced when stress isn’t overwhelming, can feel almost tangible, and at that point, it’s possible to reverse the decline. And one of the easiest ways to reach out is to send a message to someone.

How are you?

So innocent. No placing a burden on someone else’s shoulders. No necessity to talk about problems. But the simplest of ways to connect with another human.

How are you?

If you’re lucky, that human will answer honestly. Then reciprocate – How are YOU? And when the generic I’m fine is presented, with a little prodding, pushing, and gentle requestioning, it’s possible to learn, I’m fine isn’t true. There’s something going on, and the chaos inside the head is too much to think through. But finding that listening ear can be all that’s needed to turn the tide back in the right direction.

So how are YOU? Like really?!

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