“How do you feel?” One of the most frequent questions I get is, “How do you feel?” While the person asking the question is sincere in caring about how I feel, I get the impression that most of the time they want a simple “fine.” Dealing with how I feel, or any other sick person’s feeling, can be depressing, especially if they haven’t been fine in a long time.
Dealing with “fine” is much easier, uplifting, and allows the individual asking the question to move on, confident that they showed their concerned and caring nature. I know I’m being hard on a group of individuals who appear to be sincere but really aren’t. Often, they have their own problems that are wearing them down and they really can’t handle any additional burden.
“Fine” is not a good answer if you really aren’t fine. Lying to yourself and others often has real consequences, most of which turnout to be negative. “Fine” cuts off your ability to get help from your family and friends. “Fine” means that your abilities or disabilities will be misjudged. “Fine” is a term that socially and mentally isolates the chronically ill patient.
So, what do you answer when someone asks, “How do you feel?” I answer with a question of my own, “Do you really want to know?” I don’t listen to what they say in response to my question. I look at the expression on their face. If they can take it, I let them know I feel like crap. If they genuinely want to help, I tell them what crap feels like.
If they are asking to be polite or proper, “I’M FINE” is just fine.
One phenomenon of aging is that the vast majority of my social circle is not fine! These days everyone I know is dealing with something. The first 10 minutes of most social encounters consists of sharing how crappy we really are. Now that I’ve put my thoughts on paper, maybe we should just say we are “fine” and move on. Confusing? What do you say when someone asks you how you are?
One last thought. When I feel lousy, haven’t shaved nor showered in 48 hours, have stains on my shirt and have obviously crossed into the blimp zone (if I get any larger the postal service may assign me my own zip code), don’t tell me, “You look great.” If you think I look great, you either need an eye exam, to see a psychiatrist or are just full of sh.t.