The “Alright” Dilemma

How an innocuous word has become one of my greatest sources of aggravation and anxiety.

One of the most nauseating things to endure when you’re suffering from depression is someone asking you how you are and having to mentally decide whether to truthfully answer. Do I let them know every single thought that’s been through my head today, and how it’s made me feel a hundred differing emotions, or should I decide to just move on as quickly as possibly as answer “fine”? For me, it’s almost always the latter.

I don’t really want to explain my depression to every single friend or colleague, I’d likely give them all different answers and different reasons. And let’s be honest, really, they were just being polite and don’t genuinely care about my current mental state.

Which brings me to the two-syllable, headache-inducing word that every single person uses, and we really need to ban. “Alright“.

I hate this word with a passion, for several different reasons.

“Alright” has multiple contexts. It can be used as a greeting, where the speaker has no intention of carrying a conversation, or it can be used as a question, where the speaker is genuinely asking how you are. But recently it’s taken on a different form. Or at least, that’s how it has begun to come across when I hear it. It’s no longer a question, it’s a challenge. A quality assurance check. A status update. It’s pointless.

To be “alright” is to generally be satisfactory. Not amazing, not great, not good, just the bare minimum. So, when someone asks “Alright?“, it’s doesn’t feel like is comes from a place of care, it’s out of a need to know whether you’re defective or not. And if you aren’t “alright“, it is always followed by “why?”. Never “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that”, or “I hope you feel better soon”. If you fail the challenge, it starts an interrogation.

And it’s the frequency of the question, from multiple people, all the time. I might have the strength to explain to one person how I’m really feeling, but I don’t have the capacity to do it ten times over, multiple times a day.

My anxiety feels like a huge weight most of the time, it’s draining, it’s tiring, and I do my best to get through the day without dwelling on it. But being asked “Alright?” can set off a harmful round of introspection, which could last from a couple of hours to days on end. The effects last longer than the conversation ever will.¬†Constantly evaluating your own thoughts and feelings and emotions is a tireless and exhausting task and contributes to a negative mindset if the sufferer isn’t doing well.

So, it’s no wonder when sufferers from depression like myself just nod and smile when we’re asked “Alright?“. Sometimes I can barely even muster up the energy to do that, I just let out a quiet grunt to let the person know that I am indeed still alive for now.

My point here isn’t to stop people from checking in on others, it’s the opposite. Let’s stop with the bare minimum “Alright?” as we walk past each other, not really caring what the other is up to. Stop, take a minute to as “How are you?” or “How have you been lately?”. Make eye contact, be courteous, and above all,¬†listen.¬†Sufferers don’t expect you to have the answers to all their problems, but if a problem shared is a problem halved, then we can begin to take that emotional weight off each other’s backs. And for many people, that can be the difference between a good day, and a bad day.

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