“How Are You?” – Do You Really Want to Know?

“How Are You?” – Do You Really Want To Know?

“How are you, Hess?”

“How ya doin’, Hess?”

“How was your weekend, Hess?”

Have you ever been asked these questions by co-workers, friends, relatives, or maybe even by a random stranger in public? The answer is YES! These are typical questions we get asked just about every day, right? I know when I get these questions, I tend to bite my tongue or go with the generic answer, which is, “Fine! Just fine.” However, I don’t feel fine, I suffer from a chronic condition that brings me pain and suffering daily. So, how could I possibly answer those questions without putting a damper on the conversation, or just sounding straight up negative?

Nine times outs of ten, when I get asked one of those questions, I’m not feeling my best. Call it coincidence, or usual IBS behavior, all I know is that I wish I could answer those questions with a sincere smile on my face and give an honest, optimistic response. I’m really not trying to be negative, or sound miserable, but this is how IBS makes me feel most days.

Conserving energy

For many IBS sufferers like myself, most days are miserable. We’re talking about a condition that creates great anxiety because you never know what a new day will bring. Am I going to use the toilet ten times today, or will I be lucky enough to just go twice maximum? If I take a bite out of this sandwich, will it trigger an urgency to run to the toilet, or will I be okay after I eat it? Is it worth dealing with the pressures at work, or do I just call out? These are worries I have on a regular basis as an IBS sufferer. Sometimes, you just don’t know what IBS has in store, or what will trigger its symptoms, and therefore, the anxiety can be quite debilitating. I don’t want my misery to have any company, so I choose to lie and make pretend everything is okay.

I much rather be honest about my IBS pain when people ask me how I am, but what’s the point of talking about misery, especially to those who probably don’t really care? I say that to say we should only open about our IBS to those who are really willing to listen and be there for us. One thing I have realized throughout my years of living with IBS is that exerting mental energy is just like putting out physical energy, so we must be thoughtful of how we use it. IBS sufferers know when we use up energy, it can really take a lot out of us. If we’re going to use up energy, we have to make sure we use it wisely.

Choosing to be positive

For us IBS sufferers, we don’t always get to choose how we feel, but to some extent, we do get to choose how we react. Next time someone asks me, “How are you doing, Hess?” I will choose to react as positively as possible, even while suffering the negative symptoms. For example, my responses could be, “I am becoming well. I am fighting, but how are you?”, or I could say, “I’m holding on!” I’ll even fake the positivity if I have to, just because I don’t feel comfortable putting out negative energy into the world – it has enough as it is. Granted I’m not perfect, but I will do my best to maintain a positive attitude. Some may say I’m wearing a “mask”, or lying to the person asking me how I am, but I rather provide them with positive energy, than negative. To those who really care about how I feel and want to listen, thank you.

How do you feel about getting asked, “How are you”, on a regular basis? Does it bother you, or not at all? What are some good responses we could use when we’re having an off day? I just want to start a conversation and get honest answers.

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