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Navigating the "How Are You?" Question With MS

It's a simple question: "how are you feeling?"

But when you're living with MS, the answer is anything but simple. It's complicated and forever fluctuating.

So how do you give family and friends an honest response to their check-in?

Wanting to be honest, but feeling pressure

You want to be honest, but at times, an unspoken pressure to just say that you're doing well can start to mount. Of course, there are also plenty of times that you genuinely feel well but less than an hour later you're struck with overwhelming fatigue.

There’s nothing predictable when it comes to multiple sclerosis. You can start your day feeling like your pre-MS self, and then out of the blue, symptoms pop up causing you to clear the rest of your day… or longer.

So, it makes a seemingly innocent check in from your loved ones, feel confusing.

Honesty vs simplicity

When friends and family ask how we're doing, they're likely coming from a place of care and concern. They genuinely want to know how you’re doing. But if we’re being honest, we also know that they don’t want to hear the raw reality of the answer. So, where’s the balance between honesty and simplicity?

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Many people just want simplicity. They want your answer tied up in a pretty little bow. So, in these conversations, it's easy to default to, "I'm okay,” even when it's not the whole truth. I’m not looking to force a topic that isn’t welcomed or waste my energy explaining something that will go unheard.

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I personally feel it’s up for us to discern to whom we give a shorter answer to and to whom to keep it all the way real with. Because there are other people who want the full answer, and they can handle your honest truth. In this case, it’s totally appropriate to share your reality to whatever extent you want to share.

Again, it’s a personal discernment, and one that you can re-evaluate at any time. You may want or need to pull back details from someone or on the flipside, start to let someone in a little more. Circumstances – and relationships – change, so you can always adjust as it feels appropriate for you.

Communicating the unpredictable

So how do we communicate the unpredictable nature of MS to those who care about us?

One strategy is to focus on "today." By focusing your response around how you're feeling today, you acknowledge the present moment without the pressure of predicting the future.

You could say, "Right now, I'm feeling okay, but with MS, things can change pretty quickly." This way you’re acknowledging that in this moment you feel well, but that can change at any point. It helps to raise their understanding about the unpredictable nature of MS.

Setting boundaries

It's also okay to set boundaries. If sharing the details of your symptoms feels too draining or too personal at any point, it's perfectly fine to say, "I appreciate your concern, but I’d rather not get into it right now." Most people will understand and respect your need to not always talk about your health.

Remember, you're not alone in navigating these conversations. That’s what we have this amazing community for. We’re all facing similar challenges and experiences. So let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below.

How do you navigate these conversations with your family and friends? We want to learn from you, too!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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