We all use it as a standard greeting, and it has become a polite way to interact with someone a bit further than a “Hello”. Generally people are going to answer with a, “Fine.” – “Good.” – “Great!” – “Not too bad!” – Always followed with a return of the question, and the same response from the other party. “How are you?” But when you have an autoimmune disease, chronic pain, and are continuously going through both painful and exhausting diagnostics, to answer that question with any of the above would be a total lie. I am not really one who likes to sugar coat things, or lie to people, however I have begun to feel like an asshole when people ask how I am, and I actually tell them. “My legs hurt pretty bad, I just spent 20 minutes in the men’s bathroom vomiting while the receptionist watched the door because the women’s bathroom is out of order, my head is killing me, and I can’t stop shaking. How about you?” Is that what they want to hear? Is that awkward and rude of me to answer honestly, or should I just respond with a standard ‘lie’?
Today I am obviously ill, and weak. I have been sick since last week off and on, and most everyone is aware of it. My butterfly rash is almost gone, and the remaining visuals of it have been covered with makeup today. But it is hard to miss me limping around, and I am almost positive that each woman who works in this office has walked in on me expelling the small amounts of food I was able to take in earlier. By the way, Skittles look and taste AWFUL coming up. Just learned that today. Not a pleasant thing to discover. Anyway, it is common knowledge in my office that I am often sick, though some people are very unaware of what it is I have, just think I am an over dramatic hypochondriac, and like to harass me from time to time about my missing work. I just sarcastically laugh, and walk away. What else can you do? Those are also the people I lie to when asked how I am doing. They aren’t worth the effort or interaction. Please keep walking, you douche.
So back to the issue of how society pushes off, and makes people with chronic illnesses feel awkward and discarded on a regular basis. “How are you?” – You don’t really want to know how I am, so why are you asking? I understand that it is polite to ask, but I am tired of giving polite answers. I am tired of looking run down, exhausted, and beat to hell, then have someone pleasantly ask me how I am. I can tell when someone is genuinely asking me how I am because they care. Those are the people, who with their friendly faces and caring eyes, make me feel like it is ok to come to work, even when I look and feel like death. Those are the people who make me feel as though I am not inconveniencing anyone with my illness. I hate the glares, the looks, and the whispers I get from a small handful of people I work with, and I almost feel guilty for making my way through the office for the 50th time that day, no shoes on, mismatched socks, random bits of child goo on my clothing, and likely very little make up on with messy hair.. off to the bathroom just in case the apple I ate decides it wants to jump ship. “How are you?” Why are you asking me that? You don’t care. You have no concern, and if I answered you honestly, you would whisper off in the distance about my dramatic, and pitiful ways.
As much as society in general would like to deny, this is very common in other parts of life. I have gained 50 lbs this year alone simply because I am too tired, exhausted, etc to workout, or even move much. I have to eat foods high in salt, as my body has a sodium deviancy, and I slowly limp around most days. There are many times I have difficulties getting out of my little Saturn, as it is low to the ground, and my body hurts from the manual operation it requires. I have seen people stare more than a few times, and glare at me in disgust as I try to heave my over weight (full figured?) body out of my vehicle. It is very apparent that they assume my health issues stem from eating non stop hamburgers, ice cream, pie, cake, and GOD knows what else! They see me as someone with little self control, and even NO self respect! They have no idea that my intestines are swollen inside, I can’t even have anything of the sort because I can’t process gluten, and I have barely been able to keep food down for almost a week. I can’t stand the judgement that is passed on me so quick, and the looks on their faces. I know I should just let it roll off my shoulders, and keep my head held high, but lately it just makes me so angry!
The last week or so, when I get these looks from the skinny little women at the grocery store, I just want to shake them and say, “I AM FUCKING SICK! STOP JUDGING ME!” – However, the idea of incarceration isn’t exactly inviting. I wish I could walk around with a sign on me that says, “My medications cause weight gain, and we are going through diagnostics to see how much damage has been done to my knees from my degenerative auto immune disease. Have a nice day!” I know that most times I don’t want the general public to know I am ill, and I much prefer an invisible illness most times. However right now, with the rash on my face and chest, the limp, the look of disgust, black eyes, and my overall look of complete chaos, I feel like I am not to blame, and I don’t deserve to be treated as if I am failing. I am not failing! I am doing a DAMN good job! If I were to suddenly be as healthy as the average person. If tomorrow all of my illnesses were just MAGICALLY cured, I would feel like Wonder Woman on STEROIDS! I would be unstoppable! I would accomplish so MUCH! Take on the world, and do it with a beaming smile on my face!!! How are you? Pffft… My health may be in the pots, and my body is not capable of everything yours is, but I am still fucking awesome! ME! As a person.. inside. I AM AWESOME! But my body.. is not. Which answer do you prefer?
I am just fan-fucking-tastic, and as bright as a damned sunflower! Sunshine and rainbows everywhere! How are you?