When I Realized It Was OK for People to Ask How I’m Feeling

Having lived with dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, for the past 15 years, I’m often asked, “So, how are you feeling?” instead of “How’s work?” or “How’s the family?” Most questions are focused on my health, which is OK, but it sometimes gets tiring.

I work hard to be as healthy as I can and not focus on how my dystonia makes me feel, which is not always the greatest. So I feel pulled into a negative space when people ask me how I’m feeling. It makes me dwell on the negative more than I would like.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t feel this way because most of the time, I feel pretty good, and compared to how severe my symptoms once were, I actually feel awesome. However, I often find the “So, how are you feeling?” question makes me focus on all the things that are wrong with me. This is an issue I’ve been working through, and an encounter with a friend the other day helped fortify a new perspective.

My retired neighbor, Jeanne, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) a few years ago. She underwent many difficult treatments, and there was a period where her family wasn’t sure if she would make it.

Thankfully, her cancer treatments went really well, and she has since been doing great managing her condition. I frequently see her walking around the neighborhood, hanging out at the pool and enjoying local sporting events. She is living her life again and looks wonderful.

The other day I saw Jeanne outside her house while riding my bike. I stopped to say hello and to ask her how she was feeling. She said she was feeling great and doing really well. I then thought, “Hmmm, I guess it’s natural to ask someone who is or was sick how they are feeling because I just did it!” Pondering this, I asked Jeanne if she minded people frequently asking about her health. Her response was perfect. She said, “I love it! The more questions the better. It gives me the opportunity to tell people how great I am doing! It also reminds me how well I am after all I have been through, and that is a wonderful feeling.”

I rode away with a smile on my face. A smile for Jeanne who is doing so well and a smile for the new perspective she provided to help me field health questions. Actually, not so much how to field questions, but how to look at them as opportunities to share how well I am doing, even if it’s a rough day. Even on my toughest days, I’m doing so much better than I once was. Also, when I say things like, “I’m doing really well” or “I’m feeling great,” I always feel better.

And the truth of the matter is I feel great, especially compared to previous years when I faced many challenges.

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