Most of us have created illusions at some stage, perhaps only fleetingly, but an illusion no less. For example when someone asks you “How are you?” despite feeling tired, sad, angry or whatever we usually reply “Okay thanks.” or words to that effect. If the person asking is particularly observant then they may delve a little deeper, but most just accept the illusion you’ve created by pretending that your world is fine.
Or maybe it is the illusion that you are doing well financially, when in reality all the credit cards are maxed, the rent is due and you don’t have enough cash to put petrol in the car. Despite all this, you dress up smartly, put on a smile and pretend that you are doing well, even going as far as buying the coffee or whatever, just to gild the illusion.
We often find it difficult to admit that all is not well in our world, justifying to ourselves that no-one really wants to know how you feel anyway.
Then there are perceptions we make based on what we see — the smart clothes, jewellery or latest model car — even owning a business can have people thinking we are doing well which may also be an illusion.
So we see what we want to see, and sometimes it is a bit scary asking someone to clarify that they are really okay. It might make us feel uncomfortable if we ask more questions. I think back to the week before Kelly died, when she came home to live with us again. We saw what we wanted to see — that she was back to her old self, that she seemed settled and we were happy that we had our girl back again. There were some adjustments in thinking, but it was good to have all that crazy stuff done with, great to have a normal conversation with her again.
As we discovered, to our everlasting regret, it was just an illusion on her part. We saw what we wanted to see, when she was only calm because she had made her big decision to end her life and was with us to say goodbye without actually verbalising it.
So as we go about our daily lives, and we see a friend who doesn’t quite fit the ‘okay’ response to our question of how are you, perhaps we could delve a little deeper. Ask the awkward question – “Are you really okay — you don’t really seem that way?” We may find more than we wanted, but we may also save a life by showing that we really do care.
Yes, asking someone if they are thinking of suicide or ending their life can be rather uncomfortable, but I would rather feel a little uncomfortable today, than have to attend a funeral next week.