By Melissa Swanson
We’ve all done it. We have lied or told half-truths when asked the question, “How are you?”
How many people in our lives do we share our true level of pain with, the pain we feel every day, physically and emotionally?
As I walk down the school hallways each day to refill my water bottle, I pass a Teacher who always says "Hi!" and asks "How's it going?”
I smile (a forced smile) and reply “Hi! Good.”
The other day I caught myself saying in my head “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.”
I am anything but good.
When asked how are you by a co-worker or a store clerk, it's more of a common courtesy question. Am I being rude by not responding when asked how I am doing? Or is it okay, since they are not asking for real because “How are you?” is simply a greeting, not an invitation to unload your daily list of complaints.
Can you imagine if I replied, "My neck and back are causing me a new intense pain. It hurts to turn my head. It is causing headaches. I can’t get the right balance between not able to go to the bathroom or having to go to the bathroom ASAP. My right hand has started hurting when using scissors, etc. My knee feels like it is going out every time I try to stand. I had to be helped into the bathtub this weekend."
If we began answering with the truth, how long would it take for that person to stop asking?
I get it. I have known people who tell everyone absolutely every negative detail in their lives. It gets old.
What about our family or the people that live with us?
Eventually, for many of us, those that we live with stop asking. Maybe they just assume they know the answer already. It doesn’t mean they have stopped caring.
My daughter is 16; she is busy surviving high school. I don’t expect her to ask all the time.
I mentioned to my husband a while ago that he doesn't ask me how I am feeling any more. He said, “I don't have to; I can tell by how you get out of the chair and how you are walking.”
Ok, so he sees it but that really isn't what I need.
The past few weeks I have acquired new health problems and a very high level of pain. It has kept me from doing things that I would normally push through and has brought me to tears daily.
Then just this weekend we were hosting a cross country bonfire and I was asked, “What do you need help with?” I muttered under my breath, “Just end it.”
It has crossed over the line of just physical pain and is now affecting my emotional well-being. I am to the point where I have to let the truth out because if I keep answering “fine,” I will find myself on the road to depression.
Are we more likely to open up about physical pain when we are feeling depressed?
I think it is easier or more acceptable for someone to comment “my knee has been killing me” than to respond “emotionally/mentally I am …”
What if someone asked, “How are you today?” and we replied, “I want to jump.”
Can you imagine how others would react? Instead, we answer fine, good, or in my case on crummy days, “peachy.”
What if there is no one you can tell the whole truth? No one to listen to you cry? Crying alone is one thing, but crying in a room with others without any reaction is being alone.
Often we stop sharing the truth when we answer because it is easier for us. It’s much harder to share our long list of ailments. We want to be polite. We don’t want to ruin the other person’s day. We don’t want to be “a downer” or “negative.”
Those living with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia often become isolated. It is so easy to focus on our pain. It’s easy to feeling alone when you can’t talk about how you are really doing.
Thank goodness for support groups where we can share the truth of how we’re really feeling.
Everyone needs someone in their lives where they can share the truth to the question…
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author of Ravyn’s Doll: How to Explain Fibromyalgia to Your Child. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 16,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in "Living Well with Fibromyalgia" and the NFMCPA "Advocate Voice." She's a graduate of the 2014 Class of Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training sponsored by the
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