How Are You? “I’m okay, I’m fine, I’m hanging in there.”

Talking about an illness. When we ask someone we know is struggling or living daily with an illness and we ask, “How are you?” Do we really want to know? Are we looking for an answer of, “I’m okay, I’m hanging in there, some days are better than others.” Or do we really want to know?

When we ask, and the person really begins to share how they are feeling, do we tune out, thinking, here we go again, the litany of ailments, or do we try to steer the conversation away with a nod and a change of the subject?

If we are the ones who are dealing with an illness, do we tell people who ask how we’re doing? Or do we give the answer that we assume (but don’t know for sure)  people want to hear?

Lately, this has become a hugely interesting topic for me. Not only because I’m introspectively noticing my own behavior, but because I write and give presentations on what it’s like to live with PTSD.

I’m passionate about writing and speaking to try to end the stigma of living with a mental illness. But, I, too, find myself second-guessing friends, and family when I’m asked, “How are you feeling?

Wow! Well, that was a bit of self-disclosure!

Right now, at this time of year, I may say, “I’m triggered and struggling a bit, but hanging in there and doing okay.” Really, I could be falling apart inside but I either don’t want to go there at the moment (which is sometimes very good distress tolerance tool), or I simply assume the person asking wants that answer.

But am I doing it to also end the conversation, and divert the attention away from me? I might be doing that at times. If that’s the case that would be an old coping mechanism of not letting people in, wearing the mask of I’m okay, and not letting myself be vulnerable.

But is that fair to them? Or me? I don’t require someone to fix me or my problems, just like other people wouldn’t expect me to fix them or their problems. Most of the time, we just want to be heard. If we are honest about how we are feeling, and not feeling shame about it, then that makes for a more authentic conversation. Otherwise, all the non-verbal gobbledygook can be misconstrued as something aimed at us. When really, both people are just trying to move forward after hearing the answer of, “I’m okay, I’m fine, I’m hanging in there.”

One of my besties asked me how I was the other day. I said, ” I’m fine.” I could tell she didn’t believe me. I was probably acting anxious, distracted, or a bit off. I completely shut down that part of the conversation. If I would have been honest and said, “I’m super triggered, I’m anxious, my lizard brain is trying to take over and have me live in a constant state of flashbacks,” she would have responded with great empathy, and our conversation and lunch date would have moved on.

Over the last week, I was extremely honored to be a guest blogger for a site that is bringing awareness to May Mental Health Month. I  was just hired to give a presentation to a group in June, and I spent some time with people who also, gave the answer, “I’m Okay” when clearly they weren’t.

Since my goal, my passion is to keep the conversation going, and my message is, one of the ways to break the stigma mental illness is to ask questions, I am going to be much more honest when a friend or family member asks me how I’m doing. There are days when I may just say, “I’m okay, I’m fine, I’m hanging in there,” but hopefully there will be more days when I’m honest and say, “I’m having a really tough time right now, and I could really use your support.”

How are You?

image source: Pixabay

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

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54 thoughts on “How Are You? “I’m okay, I’m fine, I’m hanging in there.”

  1. Hello Alexis

    My heartfelt thanks to you for following my blog, and for all the likes & comments!And hope we continue to grow and support each other in this journey!

    Also, my blog A Wayward Scribbles reached the milestone of 500+ followers last month and I thought why not celebrate it!

    So, I’m very excited to personally invite you to my blog party(23 May, 2018), since you’re one of those amazing blogger who chose to follow my blog and I would love to show my gratitude!

    See you at the party!
    Nathi

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I really like this one Alexis. I think, somehow, we’ve been trained to give a rote answer, “fine,” no matter how we’re feeling. I do wish that we could all be more authentic, and I’m glad to see you’re leading part of the way with this. I think I’ll begin doing the same with a few baby steps with people I trust.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved this post Alexis! It’s something I’ve actually been thinking about on and off for the past couple of months. Is it okay if I write a post on my blog and link to your post in it?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh wow! You just brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for reading it and for the feedback. I really hope your son reads it to. PTSD affects the whole family and hopefully his compassion will come soon. Take good care, and again, thank you so much. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Also, I just finished your second book and came away with a lot more compassion for myself and my struggles with PTSD. I have recommended it to my son who is embarrassed by my inability to work much. He said he will read it. I told him that reading it may change his shame about me to admiration for how hard I work to stay stable and functioning. I also have a copy of your first book on Kindle and am looking forward to reading that now.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on summerSHINES studio blog and commented:
    As part of mental health awareness week; here is another FAB post written by one of my favourite writer humans. Alexis Rose. Alexis is a fellow PTSD badass warrior from across the pond, who I have come to know well, and now have the honour to call my friend X We help each other on our bad days and are always there for each other. I hope you love this post, and also PLEASE check out her amazing memoir. It is a book I will never forget. She also had authored a wonderful book on life with PTSD. Check her out XXX

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Fascinating! What a cool grandmother thing to say. How are You? “I’m still chewing bread.” I feel like in Russia (at least the Russia in my imagination) that is a perfect response.

    Like

  8. My daughter and I are learning Russian, and at gatherings with our Russian speaking friends the grandmothers will answer with a phrase that translates “I’m still chewing bread.” The cultural aspect would be very interesting to know about.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is so funny. I just love the day of the week answer. I realized talking with a friend a few minutes ago that this topic is multi-layered. I don’t know if we’ll ever figure it out. I wonder if there are some sociological studies out there on, How Are You? It would interesting to know how it is with different cultures too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I worked with a therapist (at work, not in counseling) who always told me what day it was when I asked how she was. I didn’t notice it right away, but when it did, I admit to being entertained. How are you? Well, you know, it’s Tuesday, how are you?

    I tend to go with a casual I haven’t quite figured that out yet, maybe when the coffee kicks in sort of response I don’t think I will ever figure it out. If they really want to know they can be more specific. Have you been sleeping okay this week, or, did you get the swallowing difficulties sorted out that you told me about? If they can’t be more specific they don’t know me well enough for a more detailed answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. For the record, and it may seem a little trite, it has to do with a mixture of elements. Probably the two I would rank the highest is trust in a Higher Power and staying grounded in an observer state.

    By observer state, I mean not letting my mind take me in negative directions and redirectioning it if it does. Sometimes I don’t have enough power to do this, so that is when I give whatever it is to the Higher Power. “Here, you take care of it.” I find this is executed rather handily.

    As for the rest of the mix, it is things that keep me healthy, because when I find myself healthy, I find it easy to move through situations. Proper rest, fresh air, clean water, good meals & nutrition, exercise for good body image and health, moderate sunshine, and temperance when it comes to things that don’t serve me like alcohol, tobacco, and sugars. I stay away from these for the most part.

    It may seem a little stringent, but there is the flip side of the coin. I usually feel wonderful and I know I’m not really missing anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I just always love your insight. Feeling anything but a version of a good, is really wonderful. You had me smiling with…”Thank you for that, now back to doing what we were doing.”
    For the record, Im interested!
    ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s a rarity for me to say how I’m really feeling outside of home. The interesting part of this is I am rarely ever feeling anything but some version of good.

    The thing that stops me usually is the other person’s real motive or lack of interest even though they exercised a bit of politeness in asking. As an empath I sense these things naturally without even asking. If they’re not really interested, then I’m fine. You showed me some attention. Thank you for that, now back to doing what we were doing.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Wow, I can only imagine how that would throw someone for a loop. But good for you for being fully present and Wanting to know. Thats really cool Linda. In answer to your question of How I am? Actually at this moment I feel extremely grounded. Im hanging out on my deck with the trees blooming, the birds singing and flying around and the sun shining on my legs. So Im doing well and feel very content right now.
    Thank You for asking ❤️💐

    Liked by 1 person

  15. bethanyk

    When I was a hospice chaplain that was my motto. Meet people where they are at.
    I’m listening to a wren right now as I type this!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Right?! I do believe the people who are closest to us (friends and family) want to know. I think we just keep finding our community however that looks. Maybe its as simple as meeting people where they are at, at that moment. Im being an armchair philosopher now. (While looking at a bunch of Goldfinches in the tree and hearing a mourning dove. I thought you would like to know that part) 😁

    Like

  17. ZenDoe Linda Frank

    How are you, Alexis Rose? I’m listening….
    I’ve worked with this one “How are you?” issue for years. It’s become a practice for me. I try to never ask the question without having the intent to deeply listen to the response. With my very close friends, I sometimes ask, “What’s it like to be you today?” It throws them for a loop until they get it that I’m really asking.
    Good post!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. bethanyk

    A friend of mine moved here from Massachusetts and she commented right away that it was so odd to have people ask questions as they walked by. Then she said when she went back up north and went walking with a friend and waved at someone walking past her friend asked her what on earth she was doing! I think it could be a cultural thing and it could be just a polite gesture of hello with no real regard or need for a reply. It is so hard to know. Do they REALLY want to know how we are?!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I think it’s easier to just say that you’re fine and end any debate there. I feel open to criticism if I give a real answer, I think I still have some lingering self-blame (actually I know I do) and it’s hard to say that you’re struggling when you feel that you’re responsible for it.
    Maybe not the best approach, but it’s the one that makes me feel safe and in control.
    Great post x

    Liked by 3 people

  20. I felt depressed at first about how no one understood. But now I have stopped telling people. I just tell people what they want to hear ‘I’m okay’ my standard reply at work and home. Some days are great while some days are worst between that the month is divided. Now I am learning new ways to make this sickness run away. I hope it will work. 🙂

    I wish you all the best, stay strong. 🙂 Have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. It is so complicated. And really now that I wrote that and you and I are talking about it, I wonder if people who don’t have any illness do the same thing. Is this just human nature? I don’t know. Also, since I live in the Midwest it is kind of culturally what we do. Interesting!

    Like

  22. bethanyk

    Lately, my answer has been, ” I don’t really know.” Which is absolutley true and they donn’t know what to say and neither do I so I kind of move along. Most ask while I am out in my wheelchair for a walk.
    Great points to think about. I don’t want anyone to want to fix me yet I don’t want to lie YET sometimes it is so much easier to say, “Just great” and move along. Complicated, more complicated than one thinks.

    Liked by 4 people

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