Monday, July 5, 2010

Hey Friendos! I have many post drafts I have been working on for the past few months. I still want to share these posts, even if some of them are no longer current. Here is the first one. So don't be confused, I am still improving & feeling better. 

How are you? A simple enough question, right? It used to be. Lately, I have been having trouble answering this question.

When people close to me ask me how I am & they really want to know, that question is getting harder to answer. I am trying to remain positive, but the truthful answer to this question is not positive. It's quite depressing really. I don't want to be Debbie Downer. I certainly don't want them to think they have to endure lengthy medical discussions in order to have a conversation with me.

Here's a great example. Weeks into my daily pain, my Dad asked me how I was. I responded good. His face lit up & he excitedly responded, "Really?! You're feeling better?" I replied, "Well no, I'm not good. I'm the same." I felt terrible as the smile faded from his face.

The best answer I have found so far is, I'm the same. It's a simple answer & I can be truthful without delving into all the ugly details.

When things got bad, I initially retreated into hermit mode. I didn't call my friends or my family. I felt like I had nothing positive to say, so I didn't want to talk to anyone. I'm a talker, so this isn't normal behavior for me. I started to slip into a lonely depression & it would have been easy to plummet to the bottom of that hole. Luckily, I recognized what was happening & consciously pulled myself up. I tend to go into hiding during my period, when I'm at my worst. Who doesn't want to be home when they're ill? That worked fine for me when my worst wasn't every day. I had to develop new strategies & fast.

The main new coping mechanism was starting this blog. It gives me a place to voice everything I'm feeling. If someone is interested in all these details, then they can read this blog. Since they are reading it voluntarily, I don't feel guilty for expressing the truth of my condition. It's brilliant.

I sincerely appreciate anyone taking the time to ask me how I am. So please don't take this as complaining. I am very aware how blessed I am to have people who truly care how I am.

I hope the day comes when this is an easy question to answer again. I can't wait to tell everyone that I am good & mean it!


Jeanne said...


Haha. No one wants to be a Debbie Downer. So, I understand where you're coming from re: how to respond to people's inquiries. (I used to love to watch that SNL skit when that character was on, though)!

Feel free to borrow my line. I use it all the time. It goes like this:

"I'm hanging in there"

In 28 years of living with chronic illness, this phrase has been my absolute #1 personal favorite for responding to people asking me, "how are you?"

Using this phrase, I am not lying and pretending to be 'peachy keen' when I really feel like I'm at death's door and I'm also not perceived as Debbie Downer.

More often than not, I can even control whether I get further inquiries by simply saying that phrase: "I'm hanging in there" (especially after years of practice on what tone of voice to use with whom and in what context).

If I'm in a situation where I have NO DESIRE to talk about my health conditions, I say "I'm hanging in there" in a cheerful voice and move on to the next topic before the person can blink an eye. 99.9% of the time this results in the conversation moving on to something else.

If I'm in a "neutral" mood where I'm open to possibly talking about how I'm REALLY doing with the right person and in the right circumstances, I'll just say it matter-of-factly and not jump to another topic so quickly. (This puts the ball in the other person's court). If that person proceeds with more questions, they (generally) sincerely want to know how I'm doing. (Of course, there will always be the nosy-bodies)! That's another whole post! :)

If I’m going through a really rough time, I’ll occasionally “over-share” and say more than I intended to. I’m a talker. So, when I’m upset or hurting, it can result in me becoming too talkative. I do strive not to be a Debbie Downer, though, as best I can.

If I really don't want to talk about it, I'll answer with a firm, brisk, matter-of-fact (but also cheerful), "I'm hanging in there" and then I will immediately switch the subject to something most likely to result in the subject getting dropped.

This phrase works like a charm for me almost all the time. I love it.

I’m running out of character space. To be continued…


Jeanne said...


Part 2: I'm sorry that you have been having a hard time & that it resulted in hermit mode. :( Been there, done that. Like you, I'm a talker. So, it takes a LOT for me to turn quiet... but it does happen at times.

The word depression, as used in our society, is a tricky one. Sometimes people say, "I'm depressed" but they don't mean they have symptoms of clinical depression... They may mean that they are having an especially dark or sad or isolated time or something.

I think it's important to note that if someone is depressed in the clinical sense, "snapping out of it" isn't necessarily something that the person can just choose to do when they recognize they're depressed.

I mention this not to pick apart words in any way (!) but because I believe that the whole idea of that someone “should” be able to "pull him/herself up" (if he/she were to be clinically depressed) upon recognizing the symptoms of depression is a very common belief and the expectations associated with that belief can make the existing stigma associated with mental illness even worse than it already is. (In other words, I believe the idea of being able to just "pull up" can make people who are clinically depressed less likely to seek needed treatment/stick with it and more likely to be “judged” by those around them when they can’t just “pull themselves up”).

A few years ago, the nearest city to where I live had public service announcements on TV ads where one person would tell another one to "snap out of it". The message of the ads was that for someone who is clinically depressed, they can no more just "snap out of it" than a heart attack patient can "snap out of" a heart attack.

Anyway, I don't mean to carry on. I just know that the rates of depression amongst those with chronic illness/pain are very high. :(

Lots of people who read my blog land there by Googling on some pretty alarming search strings (i.e. "endometriosis and suicide" has been the most common search string for the last couple of months). :(

Many people who have depression do not obtain the medical treatment they need for it due to many issues: stigma, expense, inability to navigate the often-complicated mental health system, etc.

So, anyway... I just felt compelled to mention that if someone were clinically depressed (which I realize is not what you said was the case for you), the idea of "pulling oneself up" might be impossible or nearly impossible without professional medical attention to facilitate healing.

I'm REALLY glad you started this blog! Like you said, it gives you a place to use your voice to share your experiences in a safe space. As you said, people who visit your blog and read it do so voluntarily. So, it gives you freedom and peace of mind. :)
I can’t believe this comment isn’t going to fit in 2 parts. I checked the character count and the second part should have been it. For some reason, Blogger isn’t letting me post it though.

To be continued...


Jeanne said...


Part 3... OK, that was odd. Blogger gave me an error that the "part 2" comment was too large but it looks like it went through because it says "your comment has been saved and will be visible after blog owner approval". That's odd.

OK, this last part probably would have fit in part 2 but Blogger wasn't acting like it would go through when I clicked preview. I'll bet if I had just clicked publish, it really would have worked. Anyhow, I digress.

I think it's awesome that you are saying straight out that you appreciate people asking how you're doing... It can be confusing for our healthy friends & loved ones to realize just how much pressure the phrase, "how are you?" can put on a chronic illness/pain patient who is unsure of how to respond truthfully and without sounding like a Debbie Downer.

Your post explains this topic perfectly! This is a universal topic that I would bet any chronically ill patient can relate to... how to answer the "how are you?" question. :)

There are also different ways of being able to answer truthfully with "I'm good". There are days when I am in off-the-chart pain BUT that I feel "good" regardless of that pain. (Maybe I just had an awesome acupuncture session that I know will help my body feel better, perhaps I just got some good news that is distracting me a bit from the pain, possibly I am engaging in a pleasant activity that isn't worsening my pain and is making me feel good in some way).

So, even if I never reach a point of being able to say, "I'm good" and mean it the same exact way the healthy person next to me does (because I'm realistic and I know that my very numerous chronic illnesses are, in fact, chronic)... that doesn't mean I don't have my days where I say, "I'm good" & sincerely mean it.

I DO have days where I say, "I'm good"... & I truly believe you will be able to do that too in time.

I'm sending positive energy your way!!


Jenn said...

Hey Jeanne, thanks so much for your comments!

"I'm hanging in there," is a good one! I do actually use that sometimes & it works well.

Thank you for your discussion of depression. I agree with you, it is true that someone with clinical depression cannot just pick themselves up. The analogy of the heart attack is a great way to illustrate it. The word depression is used too freely, or interchangeably with feeling down/sad. I am guilty of that & I should be more careful. It is an important point & I appreciate your comment about it. I was pretty shocked to learn of the traffic to your blog from searching endo & suicide. This illustrates to me another HUGE reason why endo patients need to get more involved & organized!!

It's true that even through pain, some days are still good. Thank God for that!

Thanks for visiting & commenting! I so appreciate it!!