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The “How are you?” Dilemma

Listen…I love my people. My friends and my family. I love them with all of my heart. I’ve lost some along the way as we all have and I don’t blame them for not calling anymore. My former sarcastic, sardonic self just doesn’t have much to say these days. My world has gotten small and I don’t have any stories to tell. Being sick is a full-time, but rather uninteresting career.

But some do call. They ask me to dinner and with great joy I get myself cleaned up and join them as often as I can. I crave conversation. I want to hear their stories and laugh and be a part of the world outside of my own walls. But when it’s my turn I freeze. When they ask how I’m doing I have no idea what to say. Even the dearest, the closest of my friends and family will never understand what living with this chronic illness is about and when I attempt to talk about how I am, I see blank stares across the dinner table. The same table that was filled with laughter before it was my turn.

I don’t know how to handle this. I want to hang on tight to the people who love me and go out of their way to spend time with me. But I’ve got nothing for them. I don’t have any stories that will make them laugh. Do they want to hear that I am trying a new medication and that it’s making me sweaty and sleepy? Can I make the fact that I managed to clean my bathroom in one day sound fascinating?

How do you handle the “How are you?” question? I’m finding it incredibly awkward and my attempts have left me and my poor dinner companions searching for a quick new subject to discuss. Any advice would be great …and hurry would you please? I’d like to hang on to the dear friends and family who still want to spend time with me.

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.


  • karyout
    3 years ago

    Hello! I’ve been living with RRMS and all its “glory” for 17 years now. I struggle with the “how are you” question as well. My true friends and all my family know what I’m dealing with and I can be honest and tell them I’m feeling good on a good day or crappy on a bad one. They might not know exactly what I’m feeling or understand the frustration but they are always there to listen. The awesome thing for me is with my closest friends and family we kind of make a joke about the things that I struggle with. Because if I’m laughing about the forgetfulness that seems to get worse every time I turn around I’m not stressing about the fact I forgot I JUST put my phone on the charger when I randomly freak out looking for it. I’ve learned that if I’m going out with people I don’t know very well I just say I’m ok and turn the conversation back to someone else. It’s sometimes a lie but if they don’t know me on a personal level it’s not worth the explanation of why I’m not feeling good or why my feet are numb. over the years I’ve decided that I am going to surround myself with the family and few friends I know will be there to listen to me vent about my numb feet or how tired I am without judgement. Because the stress of answering the “how are you” question from someone I just met or won’t want to hear how it took me all day to do the dishes is not worth it.

  • potter
    3 years ago

    I usually say I am hanging in there or I am okay and then I change the subject. You need to have a subject in mind to change to. Something on the news or a new product like the Ring of Fire earthquake activity or a new phone that just came out. Potter

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Allison – thank you so much for being a part of our community. So many of our members can relate to your story, and we appreciate you sharing it with us!
    I’d love to share a few articles with you on a few similar topics that you may find helpful;

    Thank you so much for sharing, again.
    Meagan, Team Member

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