When someone asks me how I am, I rarely pause to think before answering, "I'm fine."
Clearly, this is not actually the case.
By any definition, I am not fine, but I know that I am not alone in telling people that I am. Is it because I don't believe that people really want to know the uncomfortable truth? Because I don't have the energy to explain how things really are? Because I don't want people to feel sorry for me, or because I don't want them to think that I can't cope?
Well, perhaps it's all of those things, and a few more besides.
My advice to myself is to remember who is asking. My husband knows perfectly well that I'm not fine, as do many of our close friends and family members. They deserve more than to be brushed off with, "I'm fine," or even, "I'm fine, thank you." These are people who care deeply about me, and who go out of their way to offer help and support in difficult times, and who celebrate with me when times are good. Honesty is the least I can offer them in return.
Knowing intimate details about my medical conditions is a privilege. These details are shared with people who earn the right to know, not with everyone. It is not everyone's right to know whether I plan to have children (or whether I am able to do so), if I have been in hospital recently, or whether I have any more upcoming surgery planned. A gentle, "I would prefer not to talk about that" or, "That's a very personal question" is usually enough when I don't want to share.
Keeping things to myself often means that I also turn down help when it's offered. This is not a clever thing to do. I'm not trying to say that I shouldn't ever do anything for myself (quite the contrary, in fact!), but when pain levels are high and energy stores are low, taking someone up on a kind offer to put away the shopping or to come over with a takeaway meal can be a huge blessing.
You don't have to tell every painful detail to everyone who asks, but try to think of a few ways in which you might let people know how you're really doing. I've come up with some to get you started:
1. I'm alright, but I've had a tough couple of weeks
2. I'm recovering from a busy few days
3. I'm having a bit of a flare-up of my illness at the moment
4. Physically, things aren't great, but I'm keeping my spirits up
5. I've been in hospital recently, and it's taking me a while to build up my strength after that
Remember, honesty is the best policy, and don't be afraid to ask for help and support if you need it.
This post was written as part of NHBPM - 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J