“How are you?”
It’s a question you likely get asked multiple times a day. From the cashier at the grocery store to the barista who takes your coffee order to a well meaning friend checking in. What do you say? The truth or something else?
Obviously we don’t normally answer the cashier or the barista honestly because let’s face it – they’re just being polite. What about your friends? Or your mom or your co worker? That’s a little trickier. For me I often feel like answering honestly is a burden I’m placing on someone I care about – and what do I expect them to do or say after I lay this burden on them? What can they say?
Since beginning my journey with a chronic illness there’s been a transition in how I relay information. The first several weeks I shared it all because I thought maybe this is all temporary and I was in crisis mode. As time went on and I came closer to my diagnosis and my symptoms persisted and evolved I stopped sharing as much. No one wants to hear that you feel shitty every single day and I get that.
What I’ve realized through all of this is that the world isn’t going to stop for me while I deal with this. Everyone I know and everyone you know is going through something – whether it’s spoken or unspoken – and I’m sure the “I’m fine” answers we get when we ask how they are are about as honest as the ones we give them.
Every single person we know is enduring something. Maybe the thing that they are enduring seems less serious in comparison to what you or I live with but to that person it’s heavy and it’s painful.
Am I saying that I don’t ever share how I really am? Of course not. Last night I took a walk with my husband and I let it all out and it felt good. I felt lighter. He always knows just what to say and how to make me smile when I don’t want to. Sometimes I’ll tell a friend when I’m having a particularly bad day. Yesterday I texted a friend and I told her about how bad my day had been the day before and that something she shared on Facebook had made me feel hopeful. She didn’t tell me everything would be okay but she gave me hope that there would be better days ahead. I love her for that. I love the people that keep asking me how I am even when my answers are not always honest – they ask me knowing the truth may be a burden but they ask anyway and I’ll keep asking them too.