Why I Say 'I'm OK' When I'm Struggling With My Health

Yesterday morning I attended an appointment with one of my consultants. Upon entering the room he asked “How are you?”

My automatic response was, “I’m OK, how are you?”

He raised his eyebrow and jokingly replied “Well in that case time for my tea break!” We sat and discussed my condition in question and came to the obvious conclusion I was most definitely not, “OK.”

On the journey home from the appointment I began wondering about the automatic response I give almost daily.

Here are some of the reasons I have managed to shape into a coherent thought:

1. I say “I’m OK” because it is the accepted and expected response to the question. “How are you?” is often used in place of “hello” in conversation, and therefore without consideration I often reply with the polite response.

2. I say “I’m OK” because it’s noncommittal. It’s not an, “I’m good,” or, “I’m not good,” but a middle ground. It doesn’t feel dishonest to answer someone with it, as I think the word “OK” encompasses a much wider spectrum.

3. I say “I’m OK” because if I’ve left the house, chances are I’ve spent the time applying my make up, styling my hair and attempting to dress well. This basically means I’m out of my pajamas. Also, a part of me feels an odd sort of pride when someone accepts my answer and moves on without further probing.

4. I say “I’m OK” because I don’t want to burden the person asking the question. I am all too aware of the struggle I try to keep hidden from others, therefore try to be mindful of what others may be dealing with.

5. I say “I’m OK” because I’m scared people will find me boring. Unlike acute illness, chronic illness is long term and chances are this will be one of many bad periods in my life.

6. I say “I’m OK” because sometimes, I just cannot face the idea of a conversation. Sorry. Sometimes I’m too fatigued, in too much pain, or just feeling so “blah “and dejected, that a polite reply (as above) is the best I can come up with.

7. I say “I’m OK” to deflect attention to others.

8. I say “I’m OK” because I am essentially a private person. I often feel embarrassed or distressed by some of the more evident symptoms, and talking about them just isn’t easy for me – or always necessary.

9. I say “I’m OK” because sometimes it gives me a strange sense of control. I as yet have not fully accepted my conditions, and until I do by saying “I’m OK” I can prevent pressure from the outside in doing so.

10. I say “I’m OK” out of fear of the opinions of others. Too often I have opened up to people and either been met with confusion, questions, or given well meant but unhelpful advice.

If asked first, I always follow up an my response with a, “How are you?”

I appreciate the insight into others lives immensely. Especially when all I’ve managed that day is to stay in bed, or sitting on the sofa. I find hearing about another’s day comforting – providing it doesn’t come with the dreaded, “You are so lucky you haven’t had to do anything all day.”

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and I’d love to hear from anyone else who may have something to add.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock Image By: agsandrew

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Illness

two women talking outside at a cafe

4 Things to Remember Before Offering Me Advice on My Chronic Illnesses

Living with a chronic condition is challenging on the best of days and can be overwhelming and scary at its worst. I can’t count the number of days I wake up thinking, “If only I could wave a magic wand and make all of my conditions go away.” A lot of this wishful thinking comes [...]
Hospital corridor and doctor as a blurred defocused background

How Becoming Chronically Ill Changed My Journey as a Nurse

Dear fellow chronic illness warrior, Before I became unwell, I was a full-time university student studying nursing. I loved it. I was passionate about it. I read avidly about various conditions in text books, filling my head with knowledge of signs and symptoms, procedures and medications. I was the young student nurse you saw during [...]
dotor with a surgical mask standing in front of x ray

Why I Prefer Doctors Who Admit, 'I Don't Know'

I am a complicated patient and I know it. I have so many diagnoses and symptoms I couldn’t name them of the top of my head, even if I had all day. That being said, asking a doctor to wrap their head around everything I go through is a challenging feat. You see, when the [...]
Close up of hand holding cell phone

I Can't Afford My Healthcare, and Yes, I Have an iPhone

Recently Representative Jason Chaffetz was confronted on CNN about the difference between having health insurance and having “access” to health insurance. As Chaffetz applauded the newly revealed Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act, he said in response: “So maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and want to go spend hundreds of dollars [...]