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

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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.

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Thinkstock Image By: agsandrew

Originally published: March 9, 2017
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