“I just want things to be fine. For like, longer than a few months.” I heard the determination in my voice as the words left my mouth. “Apparently that’s possible, and I don’t understand why it hasn’t been a reality for me.” I finished rambling about my not-so-outrageous desire to feel okay, and looked up from the floor. Across the room, my psychiatrist was quiet. Not a good sign. I thought I’d made a few good points, that I’d articulated myself clearly. But my certainty dissolved when a minute or so later, it was still quiet in the office.
“Should I continue? Or…?”
There was another beat of silence, and I gave up staring at him expectantly. I traced the lines of the carpet with my eyes as the notions of fine and okay fled farther and farther away in the opposite direction.
“Well, how do you define that? What do you mean by fine?”
I stared at him. Did he seriously ask me that? What do I mean? He should damn well know what I mean, given the context of where I am and what we’re talking about!
Growing a little bit angry, I answered as best I could. “I don’t think I can explain what I mean by it. That’s a loaded question. I mean, right? I mean…I want to be normal!”
It shouldn’t have mattered that my words were vague in meaning. I was aware that they were, but it shouldn’t have mattered. No, fine and okay and normal aren’t specific enough in most situations. But such words, coming from someone who chooses words as carefully as I do, should mean something. Because if I’m NOT laboring over the perfect word-choice, the reason is loud and clear: I have no energy, I give up, my brain isn’t brain-ing, and I need you to make sense of the things I can’t make sense of right now.
You’d think a psychiatrist who has known me for over ten years would have realized this.
But that being said, and disappointment aside, I’m going to fucking explain what I meant when I said I want things to be fine.
Hidden underneath fancier words and more detailed explanations, fine is all the ways a person can be well. And attached to it is a complex labyrinth of ways a person hopes to be well when they aren’t.
“I’m fine” escapes the lips of everyone who is asked, multiple times a day, if they are okay. “I’m fine,” they all chorus, again and again. Because despite being the farthest thing from good or decent or sane as a person can be, there’s nothing left in them to think of a better answer. It’s a reflex response resulting from lethargy and apathy and ambivalence in regards to whether or not the answer even matters. Fine is what they all crave, a state of being that alludes them. It is a distant memory and a wild fantasy.
Fine is the opposite of what I’ve experienced on and off since before I was even a teenager. Fine is nothing even remotely close to decaying into a skeleton, or repeatedly melting into depression, or being drenched by the storm that lingers above you day and night. Fine is nothing like being paralyzed by fear every time you laugh too loudly or enjoy life for too long, and it is nothing like being scooped up by what you think is happiness only to be dropped by it. Fine is not the fifty-foot freefall. It is not plummeting into the unknown, even though you should know by now.
When you’re sitting in a fetal position, rocking back and forth, you know you’re not fine. When anxiety ripples from your stomach up your throat, you are obviously not fine. When you try to cry, desperate to release the sadness, but the tears won’t come, you’re beyond not being fine.
Fine lives nowhere near any of that. Instead, it has made itself a comfortable home in the blankets on your warm, inviting bed. Or in the arms of a mother, wrapped around you in a protective embrace. Fine is anywhere that life doesn’t hurt so deeply or for so long. It is wherever you genuinely smile simply for the sake of smiling. It is satisfaction after a long, productive day. It is pleasure and contentment.
It’s a bit of “things are going my way” coupled with the knowledge of “I can handle it even if things aren’t.” Fine is safety, and assurance, and calm washing over you. Or at the very least, it is the promise of safety, assurance, and calm.
Fine is important. It is what I assume to be a typical experience of humanity, because holy hell, if it isn’t then what are we all even doing here?
So when I say I want things to be fine, I guess I’m assuming you’re a human being who’s been placed on this planet and has lived a life full of both fine and not-fine. I’m assuming you can understand what the fuck I’m talking about.
Fine is what I didn’t realize could be typical for me, even with my disorder. Fine is what I’m going to feel when I’ve sorted the chaos into piles labeled “hang in there,” “ways to cope,” and “free to live.” And fine is the point I’m going to get to.