“How are you?” A Spoonie’s most dreaded question!….


The above appeared on my Facebook timeline the other day, which in turn got me thinking about when I am asked how I am feeling by others during my everyday life.

The question “How are you?”, is one in which is particularly hard for us who are chronically unwell.  How on earth do we answer in a few short words?  How can we answer, when we ourselves are often confused over our own feelings.

And then there’s the whole range of symptoms that we have to live with on a daily basis – tiredness, aches and pains, headaches, nausea, dizziness and the list goes on and on….

Plus, many of the symptoms, that I and other spoonies out there, the severity of the symptoms often varies from day-to-day; often changing moment to moment, and so describing exactly how we are feeling may take  some explaining!  And many people, are then afraid of the awkward silences that may follow the answer, when we decide to divulge the truth of how we are; friends not knowing what to say or how to respond to the realities of being chronically unwell.  Then there are other people, who like to offer their advice; often advice which is well-meaning and is offered with the best intentions, but only come off as being condescending and patronising, such as “You need to get out more, it’s probably just stress, and staying in, probably isn’t helping your condition”, there are many more examples – too many to mention here!

Perhaps we should come up with a new greeting for those living with a chronic illness, perhaps something like “You look well, I hope you are as well as to be expected…”

Any thoughts….



7 thoughts on ““How are you?” A Spoonie’s most dreaded question!….

  1. I hate this question! I don’t want to answer with “very well” (as expected) as that is a lie. Usually I say something like “I’m okay”, but then I get awkward looks, because somehow this doesn’t sound enthusiastic enough for people – at least not for those who don’t know about my illness.

    • I agree that this question can be very tricky, especially as we do not always know the true intention of the person enquiring – are they truly interested in whether or not we are doing well, or is using this statement just to be polite and not really interested in the ‘real’ answer.

      But as Pam my good friend stated that maybe we just should be thankful the they took the time to ask, and maybe tell ourselves that if they weren’t interested than they wouldn’t have asked in the first place.

      Perhaps people would be a lot more understanding than you may give them credit for 🙂

      Rhiann x

  2. I think I’ve become quite cynical over the years but I don’t think people really care that much or they don’t really mean what they say. I totally get what your saying about the advice givers too. I kind of think it’s best to say something like “not the greatest at the moment” and move the conversation on to a different topic maybe. I almost always just answer in some auto response though. People do fall into stumped, advice giver or carer mode pretty fast in my experience if I tell the truth. I’ve stopped communicating with people bcause I don’t know what to say anymore. So much of my life is coping now. Having little emotional conection with people has made my situation worse I think. It really makes me think I need to put some effort out to create a brain injury group in my area. I mainly get sympathy or lack of understanding with neurotypicals and I really need more than that for my life.

    I think “what u up to” or something like that might be a better greeting. Now that I think of it “how are you” is really setting people up to start a conversation out on a lie. What a terrible way to start a conversation, especially with a disabled person.

    really glad I found your blog!


    • Thank you for your reply Jonathan

      I really hope you are well 🙂

      I agree with you that it can at times be difficult to understand the intentions of people when they ask questions about our personal lives. But then again, would people really take the time to ask how we were if they weren’t really interested or cared about how we were doing?

      And although advice givers may not always say the most appropriate things, perhaps they do really mean well and finding little ways to help as they feel helpless. It can really be easy to be so pessimistic in our situations but perhaps we dot give people enough credit!

      Creating a brain injury support group in your area sounds like a great idea!! Going to groups like these gives us a great chance at meeting others who truly understand and just gives us an excuse to get out in the world for a few hours or so.

      Rhiann x

  3. Hey Rhiann, Answers to such open-ended questions often depend on who’s doing the asking. Even when I’m having the worst day imaginable, I’m likely to answer “fine” to the majority of inquiries, well knowing the person isn’t prepared for me to dive into my details. With a close friend or family member, the truth can set you free! Look at it this way, isn’t it nice that someone even bothered to ask in the first place? Sometimes it’s best to see the intent rather than analyzing the words. All I will close with is: I hope you are having the best day possible! Your Friend, Pam

    • Thank you so much for your reply, Pam. Really appreciate all of your support.

      Yes, I tend to answer all inquiries into how I am with ‘fine’ unless as you said it is someone with whom I have more of a close relationship with particularly my Mum and other close family.

      There is a lot of truth to what you said though; that we should be thankful when anyone takes an interest in how we are feeling instead of analysing whether they are truly interested or is asking just to be polite!!

      I will also reiterate your closing statement and hope you are also having the best day possible too!

      Take care and thanks again for your wonderful insights and wise words

      Your friend Rhiann xx

  4. My dad hit on a great saying that is truthful, open to interpretation, deflecting, and best of all disarming. My dad’s sayings we called “Ward-isms,” when faced with either a polite how are you or loaded one in which the giver is ready to dazzle nearby listeners with their knowledge, “How are you?” is met with a cherry, Ward-ism, “I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in, and you?” It cuts off further inquiry that you don’t want to delve into for all to hear, also cuts off the whispers of oh isn’t this honest answer a damper on the gathering talk, it also allows you more control over your private struggles from shadowing time you may rarely get to be among people helping to not have to be on guard, vigilant, defensive with advice givers who know exactly the superior effect they are after among nearby listeners. Those who truly do want to know what is happening will in a much less public way ask how we truly are but not all of them can be safe to confide or let see our struggle without further blind siding us with their often mythological belief that in this day and age surely if you just found a “Dr. House,” tried this remedy, have you tried what my great aunt Mary did, deluge that sometimes still comes deflating our spirits. Thanks Dad for the Ward-ism that helps me ward off some inquiries that I would rather not have me stressed, questioning even seeing people, and helping me to better control what I do want to share, with whom, and in a way that makes it clear the subject isn’t open and the shape I am in my be rough but it is mine not to be on display, judged, or me and my health professionals handling of to be questioned outside of the exam room. “How are you?” Ward use to say and I now say, “I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in, and you?!” -Cindy AKA Jake

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