The Mighty Logo

When Your Illness Makes You Feel Like a Liar for Answering 'How Are You?' With 'I'm Great'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“How are you doing?”

We’ve all been asked this question a plethora of times at various instances in life, be it by an inquiring co-worker, family member, stranger or significant other. More than anyone would like to admit, we’ve all also fabricated an “I’m doing great!” paired with a forced smile when the truth is less than savory.

The truth is, with or without a chronic illness, living is a difficult process for everyone. It’s like a maze — there are hindersome obstacles everywhere, and figuring out how to navigate those obstacles and come out alive can be infuriating. When you have a chronic illness it’s like navigating that maze in a suit that renders “normal” skills useless. So when someone asks how you’re doing, you may just want to scowl and shake a fist. You may want them to know what it feels like to be constantly in pain, having tests done, having a bedroom pharmacy and seeing doctors like it’s cool. You may want them to experience the heartache that followed when friends and significant others jumped ship. That’s until you realize that while the illnesses certainly aren’t empowering, the “survival spirit” that ignites while dealing with them, is.

You are beating the odds and continuing to navigate that maze of life. While it’s painful, you’re handling this. You’ve handled everything else — the uncertainty, the pain, the diagnoses, the narrowing of friends and relationships — through trial and error.  There will be new doctors, new medications, new friends and new beaus. Most importantly, there will be opportunities even your chronic illness can’t take away. There will be moments of wisdom, empathy and breakdowns.

The next time someone asks and you feel false in telling them you’re doing great, I have a secret for you. While you may not be doing great, you’re alive, and that means there’s a fighting chance. Try to ignore the nagging negative voice. As Robert Frost once said, “I can sum up life in three words – it goes on.” I encourage you to find something that makes you happy and fight for it. Give it all you’ve got, use that “sick spirit” and go for it. You’ve made it through the maze this far!

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: August 5, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home