How are you doing?

Last week was a long, hard week. I pushed through pain, frustrations, difficulties, weariness, weakness, emotional stress, financial strain, the unexpected and loneliness. If I was to list everything I dealt with the list would actually take pages and pages of writing. That’s why it’s so hard to answer someone when they approach me with the question we all hear…”How are you?”

How am I suppose to answer that question? Do I honestly dump all my insides out on the table allowing myself to be vulnerable, exposing all that I am for someone to pick through? Do I share only a small part of the first thing that comes to my mind in hopes I’m not judged for what I say? Do I choose to not share anything personal at all and simply fake a smile as I reply with the age old response “I’m fine?”

And the questions I ask myself at the very moment when asked: Do they really want to know? Are they asking just because it’s the polite and social thing to do? Do I have time to spend on explanations and justifications when they look at me puzzled due to a lack of understanding? Do I really feel like having to explain myself for the umpteenth time?

It’s amazing how many thoughts run through my mind in those few short seconds between “Hello” and “How are you?”

Many times I am able to quickly evaluate a person’s motives and concern for my wellbeing and I choose wisely. Other times I miss it by a mile. I have found the best response is always an honest one. Sometimes it requires carefully constructed words like…

It’s a dog eat dog world out there and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear.


Well, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet and no one has gotten hurt, so I’d say pretty good at this point.

The most frustrating thing about living with a chronic illness is having to answer someone who asks “How are you?” when there is no easy answer to give. Unlike a broken bone, multiple sclerosis is always there. It’s not temporary, there is no known cure, and it changes from day to day and even moment to moment.

I have found that if someone truly wants to know about me and how I’m doing, they will take the time to stop, focus on the moment and actually listen. We need those kinds of people in our life, and we need to be those kind of people to others.

Today, I’m fine to most of the world, but to those who really care and want to listen, I’m tired (or more like exhausted), stressed about decisions needing to be made, in a financial mess, dealing with a lot of pain, and feeling sad mixed with a little bit of hope. How are you?

17 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    I get that question a lot, too, and I used to struggle with how to answer … just like you explained. What I try to do, however, is to answer people “I am blessed.” Yeah, I’m depressed, fatigued, blah, blah, blah …. but I try to remember that despite all of that, God has blessed me. Sometimes, it’s hard to give that answer in sincerity, but that’s what I try to do. People who really care will get a little more focused with the question rather than the generic “How are you doing?”

  2. holly
    holly says:

    penolope- you are an true inspiration to all of us!
    so raw, real and like me, humor is the best medicine!!!
    thank you for exposing your vulnerability. it’s very humbling and had a way of putting life in perspective. you are a true angel— thank you.

  3. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    In all circumstances, not to bad. This seems to cover it nicely and sets the picture for any further questions or none to all. Only those who care that much will take that to a higher level and listen to your problems with an understanding that comes from comes from caring. Those that don’t give a continental about you can leave that where you are and carry on with on need to reply to it. This has worked for me most of my life as it fits all circumscriptions.

  4. Carla L Broadbent Rogers
    Carla L Broadbent Rogers says:

    “Good..Bad…and Ugly…..pick one and we will talk. Be well and have a nice day.” By the time they figure out what I just said we both go about our day.
    Be well Penelope and all that follow this.

  5. Gale Vester
    Gale Vester says:

    “Same sh**, different day.” Yep, that’s what I say, every and any time I’m asked. Humor is a coping mechanism that I rely upon.

    • holly
      holly says:

      i’m so there with you—feeling wise lol
      depending on the person, my response is the same as yours.
      otherwise it’s the standard, i’m doing great! more positives than negatives .
      standard response , that’s great !
      if they only knew what’s really going on, physically, mentally and emotionally… they couldn’t handle it.

  6. Stephen Harris
    Stephen Harris says:

    When I was in high school, a good friend’s mother was in very poor health in many different directions. We learned early on when she answered the phone not to say, “how are you?” because she would tell you. I always assume the person who asks this question doesn’t really want to know the details, and the cheerful, “I’m fine,” suffices. Very occasionally the asker will stop me and ask again. It’s rare, it feels really good to talk about it with somebody who cares.

  7. Raeann
    Raeann says:

    I usually say, “Pretty good.” It’s not a lie. If I am out and about, that’s how I am… to start. As the time I spend with others grows longer, I start feeling really bad. Why? I am working so hard at being “pretty good” that I am ready to go back into my house and be me. People do not realize that if I weren’t doing pretty good, they wouldn’t be seeing me. I have now realized though not to tell my doctors that. I must tell them how I really feel. Not just right then, but all day each day. Went to my primary doctor last week. I was so honest with him, I balled like a baby. Needless to say, I now take Xanax.

  8. Ruthann Pyle
    Ruthann Pyle says:

    Our grown daughter has MS and 5 minutes from my husband and me but I always truly want to know how she is. We wish we could do more for her.

  9. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Glad my significant is at work so less stress. Exhausted already and just woke up, wishing the humidity would piss off, wish I could find the best place on earth to live with MS, hoping there is some sort of cure soon, tired of struggling, wish I had appreciated my body when it was well ….

  10. Meeya
    Meeya says:

    Well, today I’m better than yesterday, but much worse than I was a year ago… but don’t worry at all… I’m like bad weeds – sturdy, really hard to get rid of 😋
    BIG HUGS, dear Penelope, anderen best wishes!

  11. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    Can relate with your thoughts Penelope! Love the answers you have and mine at moment is “Well, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet and no one has gotten hurt, so I’d say pretty good at this point.”

  12. Sarah parker
    Sarah parker says:

    Fine, F***ed up, Insecure, Nerotic, Emotional that’s how I am, every day it’s starts at a different point but always fine!


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