If I Told You How I Really Felt When You Ask How I'm Doing

I notice on any given day I am asked by numerous people, “How are you today?” It isn’t asked entirely people who are asking about my illness, who know I am chronically sick. It’s often people who don’t know my situation, such as the bank teller, the person working the drive through at the coffee shop or the cashier at the grocery store. The words, “How are you today?” or “Hi, how are you?” are commonly used as an everyday greeting. The answer I always give is, “Good, how about you?” But what if I was honest and told them how I really felt?

My honest response would be along the lines of, “I’m not well. I’m actually very far from OK. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I felt OK – I am in constant pain. I feel like I can’t stand up to the pain some days.”

I have never brought myself to respond with that honest answer. I most often respond with, “I’m good, how are you?” because that is what feels right, but I’m not telling them the truth. It feels out of context to be honest and say anything other than that. I’m sure if I gave my honest answer, the polite cashier or bank teller wouldn’t really know how to respond. When I think about it, they’re trained to say that to hundreds of people in a day as a way to be polite and courteous, but how many people actually respond honestly to them?

I give a different answer when one of family members or friends who know about my condition ask the same question. With them, I am honest and tell them how I feel on a given day. Sometimes my answer is, “Today I’m feeling awful, the pain is very bad.” Other days I may be able to say, “I was able to do a few things around the house today.” It most often involves me responding with, “The pain has not changed.”

I know that not everyone I encounter in a day knows my story and what my condition involves, but every time I am asked, “How are you today?” I am reminded of my condition and that I am not being honest when I say, “Good, how are you?”

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