The Simplest Question is the Most Difficult to Answer (Opinion)

There’s so many things said to persons with chronic pain and illness that make perfect sense to have some sort of visceral reaction. From the ignorant to the down right discriminatory, you do your best to assess the situation to see if it can be a teachable moment, or something you bare and move on.

In my case, I’m unsure what to do. It’s a hard one to get people you know to stop asking you, let alone complete strangers. I welcome suggestions.

How are you?

I have no idea how to answer that sentence. Most of the time, people say it in passing, not actually wanting to know how a person is doing. It’s sorta evolving lately as a replacement greeting. I wish my brain would make the switch. I guess the quirkiness I’ve been gifted with will keep me struggling with the simple. This is why people compare me to Sheldon on Big Bang Theory.

These are the scenarios I run into.

Scenario 1 – They didn’t mean it literally
I give people the benefit of the doubt: I haven’t seen them in a while, and they seem as if they do want to know how I am. I start to share that things have been rough. This wasn’t the response they were expecting. They didn’t really want to know how I was. Since the conversation usually freezes, I turn things around downplaying what I just said, causing confusion to the legitimacy of my current state.

What follows is miscommunication, judgement, and lack of understanding. Have you ever seen that Gilda Radner SNL sketch where she plays Roseanne Roseannadanna, and reads a letter about a guy with a lot of problems? Her response, jokingly: “Mister, you sound like a real attractive guy.” and then uses the famous line “it’s always something”. For being honest, I’ve turned into the “it’s always something” gal. That’s not my whole identity, but it’s all that’s seen. I tend to shut down after the initial mistake of opening up, because the result of saying what’s going on makes me the bud of jokes. It gets old. Fast. I’m then the one with no sense of humor. It was just a joke! I’m all for mocking my state, but where that joke came from matters.

Roseanne Roseannadanna SNL

Scenario 2 – I lie.
I’m told this should be the one I stick with, this is what pretty much everyone else does. There’s two problems here. I’m fine/good/well has to be the most widely accepted lie out there. Why is it a problem? I hate lying. I really do. If I say I’m alright when I’m not, it triggers my anxiety. This sends me down a whole new rabbit hole of symptoms I have no control over on top of whatever other symptoms.

Here comes the second problem: there’s a mismatch between my behavior, and what I said. Someone who’s fine doesn’t behave how I do: rocks back and forth suddenly, constantly runs to the bathroom, excuses herself frequently from social interactions (or flat out disappears, or never goes), complexion goes white/grey due to the pain being too high and all of a sudden is hobbling to get around. This list is short. I’m so glad I get the occasional are you alright from someone if I did go out, this is my way to say actually, no, I’m not feeling well. I think I’m going to jet. These behaviors becomes gossip. Anyone who tells me to ignore it hasn’t had a lot of gossip about them constantly on the go. It takes a major hit to your abilities to socialize and make new connections.


There’s others, but those are the two most common where I find myself stuck. I still haven’t given up. I bare both the above because if I don’t and stay away from people, it only feeds my social ineptitude.

Suggestions welcome on my conundrum, and what are every day questions you struggle with?

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