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My Biggest Fear About Life With Chronic Pain

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I’m in a secret spilling mood today, are you? I’ll go first.

My biggest fear in life, especially as a chronically ill adult on the brink of new decade, is this: that people will one day, some day in the maybe not-so-distant future, stop asking me how I am – and subsequently, stop caring about my answer. I know what you’re thinking. That in a world full of uncertainty and gray areas, that my biggest fear would be something so…simple. But hear me out, as this is something that has admittedly kept me up at night.

Saying to someone, “How are you?” is the most common practice to spark a conversation. It is the gateway to a stranger, a bridge to a frenemy, and a tattered old tradition with your nearest and dearest. Now I will be the first one to admit that I have hollow asked, “How are you?” in my time, and not wholly and genuinely tuned into their answers. Like I said, I’m telling secrets today. But I’m curious if you could say the same, especially in this day and age when status updates are more personal than a real, live, shiny conversation.

But I think we can all recall a time or two when someone asked us that golden question at just the right time. Perhaps you were impatiently waiting to gush about your new promotion or were feeling the pull and tug of grief wringing you out from the cellar of your insides. It feels so good to be asked how we’re doing, doesn’t it? It feels like an opportunity to polish a chink in your armor and to stand a little taller. Because someone cared enough to stop caring about themselves momentarily.

For me, what scares me most about the absence of this question is that I have been so sick for so long that those around me just assume they know how I am doing. For example, I may have some version of a migraine every day, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. On some days, I’m able to cook several meals! And on others, you’ll find me hunched over in a cold shower. To stop asking me how I am doing, because you just know I will say something like, “I’m in pain today,” or “My vision is more blurry than normal,” has a greater impact and could make me feel less than. And that’s not a world I want to live in.

Now, to set the record straight, I am surrounded by a community of people who are so, so kind and often ask me how I am at various points throughout the week or month. But perhaps, if you think on it a bit, you have someone in your life who you have stopped asking this question to. Or someone to whom you never started.

Because it’s not really about the question, folks. It’s about the gesture and what should follow…silence; so that you can listen and truly take in what that person is expressing to you in that shiny time warp we call a conversation.

And maybe, just maybe, if we all started asking each other how we are – and we all started reciprocating with honest answers because we felt safe and heard and important – our world as we know it right now, would be a little bit more together. Because to be heard, is to be understood. And to be understood, can make the difference between a person feeling like dust, or like the radiant constellation that they inevitably are.

So, I’ll start. How are you?

Getty Image by Mercy_C_M_H

Originally published: March 15, 2018
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