How are you? The not so simple answer to that simple question

How are you?

Such a simple every day question. But nothing is simple when it comes to CFS/ME (or any type of chronic illness) and the answer to this question is no exception!

How do you answer:

The outright lie? – I’m fine, all well and good never been better

The brutal honesty? – I am awful, I am in pain all the time suffering from crippling fatigue.

It is tempting to lie and say everything is ok even when its not, especially to co-workers or people you don’t see often. There are benefits of doing this it skates over the temptation to give too much information when you know the person is only asking to be polite; the downside however is that you are not conveying how much effort/ discomfort you putting in just to be there (be that work or a social event).

This can raise peoples expectations of what you can do, if you are fine/good their exception is likely to be that you can do that extra piece of work or be disappointed when you can’t stay all night out drinking or meet up for that spontaneous dinner.

Equally brutally honest response detailing exactly how bad your feeling isn’t that helpful either, the person asking the question unless they are a super close friend, family or partner they are unlikely to want how bad you are actually feeling. Even though it shouldn’t it can make things a bit awkward.

So if lie and being brutally honest aren’t the right way to go, what do you say ?

Well there is a third option and is something I have been doing for a while, I say something along the lines of depending on how your feeling that day:

Not to bad thanks today is a good day, pacing seems to be working. I am defiantly getting there.

or

Not great today, but we will see how it goes.

I think the way you respond to such a simple question really ties into your mental rehearsal (Link)  and mindset (Link) both of which are so important to the recovery process.

You need to believe that you can get better before you can convince others.

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4 thoughts on “How are you? The not so simple answer to that simple question

  1. I tend to say “yeah I’m doing ok today thanks” if it’s a good day or “not so good today but hopefully better tomorrow” if it’s not such a good day! Like you say, unless it’s someone close who understands a bit more it’s too much effort to elaborate!

  2. I tend to say “yeah I’m doing ok today thanks” if it’s a good day or “not so good today but hopefully better tomorrow” if it’s not a good day. Like you say, unless it’s someone close to you who understands a bit more it’s too much effort to elaborate!

  3. Ooh! I never know what to say when people ask me this either! I often say something like ‘I’m feeling better than I was, but I’m taking things day by day’, but unfortunately most people seem to think that means I’m completely better now. Then they go on to ask me the dreaded question ‘so, what are you up to these days?’ Which kills me, as I’m mostly housebound and just surviving, so I usually try to ignore their question completely to avoid talking about it! I always feel torn between whether I should tell people how sick I really am, or try and hide it! xx

  4. I usually answer by saying ‘ I’m a box of birds….but they are not chirping’ I find that this covers everything without having to repeat myself in an explanation

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