My boss's father recently passed away quite unexpectedly. He had a history of heart troubles, but he had been healthy of late. He even recently traveled to Minnesota from the east coast to visit family, and was feeling good up until the morning he died.
The family is saddened that no one else besides his wife got to say good-bye to him, and yet, truly, isn't this how all of us want to go, quickly, not linger on in the care of someone else?
In the days that followed, his widow did not want to go out. She would look out the peephole of the condo door before taking the garbage out, because she didn't want to run into anyone and have that person ask how she was.
Many of us are like her. We are fine on the outside, seemingly functioning, taking care of ourselves, getting up in the morning, eating, working, even laughing.
But the minute someone asks "Are you okay?" it becomes very obvious that we are not.
Living with anxiety or depression is like that. It can sometimes take all your strength to get out the door, to leave the security and comfort of your home. Even the very thought of leaving brings tears, but finally, by God, you're out the door, into the world.
And then some well-meaning person sees red-rimmed eyes, the aftermath of the effort to join them, and says, "Are you okay?"
Well dammit, you were until someone asked. Suddenly all of the struggles you've worked so hard to shove away deep inside are right there on the surface, exposed. You find yourself on the verge of tears, fingers trembling, face reddening at the lie you have to tell.
For me, my well-perfected answer is, "I'll be fine, thank you for asking." End of conversation, or at least I hope.
Except, I have people in my life who ask, "Are you suuuure?"
And unless this person is a confidante, someone who is in my inner circle of people I connect with, lean on and share my life with, usually s/he is just curious. People living with anxiety or depression do not just walk around spilling their guts to everyone who asks "Are you okay? Are you suuuure you're okay?"
Those who are dealing with the aftermath of a loss, like my stepmother or my boss's mother, often don't need or want to rehash every last detail of their loved one's final hours. Some do, but then you never need to ask "Are you sure?" because they'll be talking your ear off and you'll be nodding and looking at them while practicing your sympathetic expression.
Those suffering from anxiety or depression look a lot like grieving people; if you were a part of their healing circle, you would know it and wouldn't be asking "Are you suuuure?"
I guess my point is...
Please ask "Are you okay?" and be okay with whatever answer you get. If you somehow feel urged on to ask, "Are you sure?" stop yourself and instead say "Let me know if I can help." If you can, that person will let you know.
Sometimes this small kindness is all it takes.