For the longest time, when someone asks me how I’m doing, I said “fine thanks!” It’s bright, breezy and if we are honest, what most people want to hear.
Lots of people I know in the real world read this blog, and so when I see them, I think they feel they have to ask after my health. Being British and having the polite factor drummed into me, I respond with the usual answers of “good, how are you?” “Fine, thank you” and “not too bad!”.
Sometimes I see the confusion in their faces and realise that they’ve probably just read a heart wrenching description of my mental health and that I shat myself that morning. (Oh the joys of being an oversharing Blogger!)
It’s a worry when you have a chronic illness that you are going to become too much for those around you, that it must be hard that you are always ailing with something. I worry that people will get bored of me and my illness, that they wish I’d just be better and stop banging on about it!
I also feel pressure to be sunny and positive, I think sometimes people expect it of me because of writing this blog. I feel I have to be a shiny, happy person and not talk about all the many negatives.
It got me thinking about why I say “fine” when I’m anything but fine. And I think some of it is embarrassment, some is habit and some is my issue of opening up to people unless it’s in the written word or if I’m standing in front of an audience! Yes, I realise that’s quite fucked up.
So I thought I would start trying to be honest when I’m asked how I am. The results have varied! Most people seem taken aback when I say “I’m not great to be honest, I’m back and forth to the hospital and it’s really getting me down” I think it shocks them to get a genuine response to an everyday, casual question.
When this happens I feel a bit embarrassed and that I’m flaunting some unwritten rule that I should have a stiff upper lip, nod and enquirer how they are doing without actually wanting to know the answer.
But I’ve also had some great responses, from those who are asking because they care. In that fleeting moment where I tell them that I’m struggling and they reach out, touch my shoulder, tell me that they’re there for me if I need anything. Those interactions feel so real and genuine and human.
So you’ve been warned. I’m going to try and be honest from now on. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask!