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Thread: Article on how people respond when you answer inquiries about your health.."..

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    Distinguished Community Member Lazarus's Avatar
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    Default Article on how people respond when you answer inquiries about your health.."..

    Dealing With One-Upmanship

    By Devin Garlit ∑ June 29, 2018
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    Like many people suffering from a chronic and often invisible illness, I rarely bring up how I am actually feeling when talking to someone. Even when specifically asked, Iíll give the standard ďIím fineĒ or ďoh, you know, good days and badĒ. I will, occasionally, if I feel comfortable enough, be more truthful and explain that Iím in pain, or I had a bad fall, or Iím fatigued, or any of the many, many symptoms I encounter. Being truthful about how I actually feel is a rarity, so itís especially disheartening to have someone complain about their own health afterwards. Regardless of the reasons for doing it, this act of one-upmanship can be especially discouraging to those with a chronic illness.

    Why do people do this?
    Iím not entirely sure why people feel the need to one up someone when it comes to talking about their health. Some people will obviously be trying to sympathize and show that they too know what itís like to feel crappy. Iím sure some people donít know how to relate and think that talking about the negatives of their health seems like the best option. Others though, just need to be the center of attention. They always have to be the person with the worst condition. If you are fatigued, well, theyíre ďsuper tiredĒ, too. If you are in pain, theyíve also got pain somewhere. Whether it is truly trying to relate to us or just trying to gain superiority and attention, itís still pretty demoralizing.

    We arenít always truthful
    Iíve mentioned in the past that Iím not always truthful about how Iím feeling when asked. I get asked a lot, too. When people find out you have a chronic illness, you tend to get that question more than most. Some people start to identify you by your disease and canít help it. They see you and are compelled to say something, often with a slightly tilted head, asking, ďso how are you feeling?Ē. Obviously, not many want to actually hear the truth. For many, itís a social grace. There is the sick person, letís check on them. Thatís certainly one reason many of us will just put on a smile and say we are fine. We also very much feel that few people can actually understand what itís like to have MS, unless they have it themselves. The rarity of our disease, coupled with symptoms that are often invisible, make it easier to simply say that we feel fine.

    Dealing
    Everyone has problems, I get it. Everyoneís own problems are always the biggest in the world to them, I get that too. However, when someone with a chronic illness, like Multiple Sclerosis, actually opens up about how they feel, itís important to respond correctly. We arenít looking for attention, we arenít looking for sympathy, we just want someone to listen. We donít even expect you to understand, in fact, we know you canít, but sometimes, itís good to just vent. It can be refreshing to be honest and admit that we donít feel well. There are times when we simply have to be honest. When someone immediately follows up with a complaint about their health, it diminishes our admission. It makes us much less apt to be truthful in the future and it makes us feel like you arenít really listening.

    Thanks for reading!
    Devin
    Linda~~~~

    Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says:"Oh Crap, She's up!"

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    Distinguished Community Member Sunshine's Avatar
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    I guess I say, “I’m stable”... people so want to hear me say I am getting better. ...

    When someone complains about something equivalent to a hangnail, I just smile and let them talk. Even pretty healthy people need a good listener.

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    Distinguished Community Member Pegakafarmgirl's Avatar
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    :I just say I have good days and bad days,,I listen to them,talk about their health,, and smile.. no advice,, they just needed to vent
    " Don't outsmart your common sense"

    Peg

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    I agree with Peg and Sunshine and I usually do that. However, when I am going through a really rough time and haven't been out of the house in a week, and someone ask and I try to tell them. When I get interrupted with "I know what you mean, I feel bad a lot, or I am so tired sometime" it is just irritating. And if I haven't seen someone in quite awhile and they call on the phone. When they ask how I am and I say good days and bad, the first thing they want to know is are you walking? Do you use a cane? They don't know anything else that MS can cause. I am afraid I get kind of irritated, but I try not to show it.

    And what am I supposed to say to are you walking? Well, yes, but not very far and not very long at the time, and in a clumsy way, but this they do not understand. To others if I am walking I am walking period. They do not realize that I can't go for a walk in the neighborhood, or do that kind of walking.

    By the way, this was not a good day to ask me this, because I am having not just an awful day, but certainly not good. My house is 76 degrees and I am in a heavy robe because I am still having chills. No, I do not have the flu or a cold - I have MS and that happens to be one of the things I suffer from on just "not so good" days.
    Virginia

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    Distinguished Community Member Howie's Avatar
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    I never talk about my health, or ask others about theirs.
    Evolution spans the Universe.

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    Distinguished Community Member Lazarus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunshine View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    I guess I say, “I’m stable”... people so want to hear me say I am getting better. ...

    When someone complains about something equivalent to a hangnail, I just smile and let them talk. Even pretty healthy people need a good listener.
    I like the I’m stable response. That is exactly what I say when people ask me about John. Don’t know why I did not think of it as an answer for me too!

    I really like the author explaining what is annoying when people say that they “get so tired too, or have spasms when they run or have trouble remembering where they left their car keys...etc.”. Their translation of my response to a question about how I am doing diminishes the difficulty of living with MS.
    Linda~~~~

    Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says:"Oh Crap, She's up!"

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    I have a friend who has a myriad of chronic health issues, disabilities and injuries most of which are invisible to me. He's usually very open about those conditions if I ask him but a lot of times I refrain from asking even if I really want to know these things. I never know if I should ask him or not....any advice?
    Mild Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy and bad proprioception.
    My website for my original short films! http://cripvideoproductions.com/astrokeofendurance.php

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    Distinguished Community Member agate's Avatar
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    funnylegs, I try to seem as healthy and perky as possible among people. I'm glad if they're not thinking of me as the "sick person." I prefer not to think of myself as a sick person. I don't like being reminded about the MS. It is reminding me constantly anyway. Your friend might be like that too. If this is a pretty close friend, you might want to ask occasionally.

    If you wait long enough for a reply, that helps. Many people ask how I am but it's clear from the rushed way they move on that what is wanted from me is just a brief "I"m OK, thanks." If you can give your friend time to reply, you will let the person know that you're genuinely interested.

    I assume that people asking how I am have forgotten I have MS or don't know and are just asking routinely, as a social pleasantry--"Hi--how you doing?"

    Particularly on an elevator, that question can't be answered with much more than "Fine" or "OK." I used to follow that with "How about you?" but one problem with that is that they will then tell me, often at some length.

    So if I'm not up to hanging around and listening, I say "Fine, thank you" and move on to something else.

    Many people do welcome a chance to talk about themselves, and there are those who find their own illnesses endlessly fascinating and assume everyone else will be just as fascinated. Those are the people I sometimes steer clear of. I'm not their doctor or nurse, and there isn't much I can do for them except listen.

    With something like MS, though, real-life people probably don't really want to know how we're doing. Do they mean how is our bladder doing? Or our eyesight? Or our balance? Or are mobility? Or our speech? It would be difficult to state how we are doing in a short time, and most people aren't going to wait around for very much detail.

    Then there's Howie:

    I never talk about my health, or ask others about theirs.
    MS diagnosed 1980. Avonex 2002-2005. Copaxone 6/07 - 5/10.
    Member of this MS board since 2001.

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    Distinguished Community Member Howie's Avatar
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    That darn Howie, ignoring a chance for a fascinating conversation.
    Last edited by Howie; 07-05-2018 at 05:30 PM.
    Evolution spans the Universe.

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    This conversation comes up periodically. My answer is always this: "Hi, How are you?" is NOT generally a real question. It is a greeting, at most a conversation opener, but usually just a recognition that the person sees you and acknowledges your presence. They don't REALLY want to know that you're having a good day/ bad day/ are in pain/ can't walk/ pee your pants/ have convulsions/ have MS/ have whatever other health issues that plague us every day. All they REALLY want to do is have you acknowledge that you see them, too -- so you respond, "Fine, thanks, and you?" -- and hope they don't start listing all their ailments, either.

    Now of course there are exceptions to this. There ARE some close friends, and sometimes family members, who really DO want to know how you are..and they're the ones that will listen, and sometime offer to help, or at least sympathize and maybe offer a cup of tea..or a can of beer. And of course when health professionals ask "How are you?" they, too, REALLY want to know. At which time you do describe all the issues you're dealing with.

    But otherwise....It's just a greeting. Like, "How 'bout them Packers, eh??" or "Gee it's hot lately!". Or some other banal conversation starter.

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