Friday, April 24, 2009

How are you?

Well, since I wrote about my second least favorite question yesterday: "What do you do?", I'll write about my #1 hardest question to answer tonight.

"How are you?"

Okay, granted, it depends on who's asking. Your basic person on the street, the answer is "Fine thank you, how are you?" Not so difficult.

But when people who know my situation ask, they are asking a bigger question than that. They want to know what kind of day I'm having. That's great if I'm having a good day, but what do I say when I'm really feeling lousy, but I'm fighting to stay on top of it. Do I lie and say "I'm doing ok," or do I tell the truth and say "lousy, thank you."? I suppose anybody who asks me how I am wants the truth, but I get afraid that if the answer is "lousy" too often, they'll get tired of asking the question. There in lies the issue I suppose. I really want people to care enough to ask, but I'm well aware that nobody wants to hang around with a complainer. Certainly it's one thing to complain for no reason, and another to be just telling the honest truth. But I know that my loved ones really want to hear "I'm doing really well today," or "Much better, thank you." They want me to say that because that's the truth, not just to say it. And goodness knows I want it to be the truth. But more often, that's not the truth. Perhaps the answer is exactly as I said above: "I'm really feeling lousy, but I'm fighting to stay on top of it." Yet I still feel that people will get tired of that answer and stop asking. I'm still afraid of chasing friends away.

Maybe that's how you find out who your true friends are. People who can't deal with the situation will fall by the wayside. I lost a couple of friends shortly after I was diagnosed because they couldn't cope with the changes in what we could and couldn't do, and I think some of them just couldn't cope with my pain. I'm sure the thought of a contemporary having an incurable disease is frightening. It makes you face your own fears and mortality. "There but for the Grace of God go I." Also, in the beginning, I didn't have such a chipper attitude, to say the very least; I'm sure that drove some people away. And I suppose some people might not be able to deal with me canceling plans at the last moment, or sometimes needing extra help. Finally, I know that on my very worst days, I get very reclusive. I don't know why I do that, you'd think that would be when I would need people the most, and yet I've heard a lot of other chronic pain sufferers say the same thing. I just don't want to talk to anyone when I'm in that much pain. I can't imagine making small talk and having to sit up and be polite when I am working hard just to maintain horrendous. Plus, on my worst days, I get angry about it.

I think, once again, I've come back to my own insecurities. I get so tired of feeling lousy that I assume my friends will get tired of me feeling lousy. I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired! I have absolutely no patience for my pain anymore, so I fear that my friends are sick of it too. I know a friend is supposed to be around in good times and bad, but this seems like a lot to ask of people. And yet, I wouldn't hesitate to be around for my friends if the roles were reversed. I guess I never want to be a burden on my friends. And more so, I'm afraid that if I am a burden, I won't have any friends.

So much for not being ruled by my fear. I think I have to work on this one. Any thoughts? Are there other chronic pain sufferers who feel like a burden? How do you handle it?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great subject, and not an easy question. You're right, no one wants to be around a Debbie Downer, but we do want to know when you're having an off day - where do you draw the line?

    I think the fact you don't want to become a burden is what actually keeps you from being a burden, if that makes sense. It's horrible to say, but some people relish their bad health and the attention it brings them, they couldn't care less the negative impact it has on folks around them. You are the exact opposite: any attention you garner you want to be from a positive place - friendship, love, giving, laughter, all the things that make the world brighter. That's what keeps you from being perceived as a whiner when you confess to feeling bad - you don't want sympathy or pity, you're just relaying the facts as they pertain to that moment.

    Besides, it's not like you start every conversation with "Damn, do I feel lousy today" - you don't tell people how you are feeling unless they ask. That's a major deal. And the folks who really love you wouldn't ask if we didn't want to know.