How I Choose to Respond to 'How Are You?'

“I’m here. Thanks for asking.”

That’s my new response when someone asks me, “How are you?”

I don’t believe that my friends really want a true, detailed response. And, I refuse to lie or minimize for their comfort. Sometimes I just don’t want to talk about it. It makes me feel too identified with my illness. I rarely feel 100 percent. Actually, I never feel 100 percent. I don’t really remember what being totally well is like anymore. Nowadays, I have good days, OK days, not so good days, and dreadful days.

Good days are days when I can do most of the things that I would like to do. There aren’t a lot of these. Most of the time I am in “OK days” and “not so good days.” On these days I will still have visits with friends but will usually leave early and then have to rest for several hours. These are the days where I need to be cautious and careful.

So when they ask how I am, I say, ” I’m here.” This says that I am not fully well, but you don’t have to listen to a description of my illness and what is going wrong at the moment. I actually find this helps me. I don’t want to have answer constant questions about my health issues. I have a chronic illness. Chronic means “doesn’t go away.” I hope my response doesn’t appear rude or condescending as I have no intention of being like this. I just find it tiring to explain the complexity of my health issues and how they interact. The only people really interested in the details are me, my doctor and maybe my husband.

“I’m here,” gives my friends permission to understand that I am not feeling fantastic and that I do not expect them to feel that they must ask any further questions about my chronic illness. It also tells them that I accept not being 100 percent well and that I will continue to try to participate in activities and socializing with them as best I can. We can then get on with enjoying one another’s company as there is more to me than chronic illness. I don’t want chronic illness to be focussed on. Chronic illness is only one bit of me, albeit something that has brought many changes into my life.

I think that being able to say “I’m here,” indicates that I trust these friends and know that they really do understand the issues that I have with my health. They actually “get” chronic illness. I know that these friends will be supportive when I ask them for help or, they will understand if I cannot join them sometimes, or, that I need to drop out at the last minute sometimes, or that I may have to leave early.

“I’m here,” and, “Thanks for asking,” has released me from explaining myself all the time. It makes chronic illness easier for me.

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