I believe that most people don’t really want to know details; they’re just asking to be polite and to communicate that your well-being is something that they care about. Therefore, my typical response is, “we’re doing fine.” Then, there are those who know a little more about some of our challenges and want a little more information, so that group gets, “Doing well. No new issues right now.” That’s all they really want to know—is he worse or about the same? They know he’s probably not “better” because he has a chronic, long-term health condition that has totally disabled him so in their minds, “how good can it be, anyway?”
There are those who are interested in details—family members, close friends, and confidantes—those groups get more information, but it’s still filtered. People in those groups want to know if there are any new problems and what is being done about them is there is. They want him to get better and make progress. They don’t like for him to feel bad or have to go through difficult times and they seem so disappointed if I tell them, again, that he feels “bad” or is exhausted and just has no energy. So I just share the surface things and change the subject.
The fact is, Lynn is totally disabled. That’s not likely to change. He feels lousy on some days and less lousy on others. He’s tired every day but some days he’s just tired and other days he’s exhausted to the point that he couldn’t move his power-chair to get out of the way of a car speeding toward him. We attribute those good and bad days to a variety of factors but in reality, “who knows?” It is what it is.
So then, how do I respond when someone asks me, “How are you? No, really, how are you?” Usually I still just smile and say, “I’m doing okay; it’s hard but I manage.” I don’t believe that they really want to know how my life really is. It would sound too much like I’m whining because if I really told them like it is, it would go like this:
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