Two people sitting face to face having a conversation, question mark coming out of person #1's mouth. Person #2 has a distressed look on their face with flare icons over their hands.

How Am I Doing? The Dreaded Question ...

It's the same old question born out of social obligation: "How are you doing today?" Truthfully, since being diagnosed with RA, I don't know how to answer this question. While I recognize that, in most instances, asking this question comes from a place of good intentions, I find that I have to filter my response because it is profoundly difficult to explain the complexities of RA to someone who does not have the disease. Accordingly, I want to spend some time today dissecting and discussing this question and what are, if there are any, the socially appropriate responses to that question.

Talking honestly about RA

Mixed feelings of guilt and honesty

Although it is something I am currently working on, I always feel moderately guilty answering the question of "how am I doing?" honestly. It feels uncomfortable to consistently answer that I feel awful because I never want to come across as if I'm complaining. Because if I were honest each and every time, it would sound like I'm constantly complaining. It would sound like I am constantly in pain, that I am fatigued and exhausted, feeling like I'm being dragged along the ground each day, that I have mini fires erupting in the tiniest joints of my fingers and toes. Further compounding this problem is the fact that it is incredibly difficult to communicate to someone without RA that I am not really complaining; I'm simply expressing how my body genuinely feels, that the truth my body embodies is that I'm not doing well. I don't feel well; hardly anyone with RA does. That my joints hurt, that I am exhausted beyond belief, that I feel weak and feel like I have the flu, all the time.

My body, my truth: the answer lies within

What I have found throughout my personal experience with this disease is that how I am doing is really no one's business but my own. That I embody a certain catch-22 each time those words leave someone's mouth. If I explain how poorly I feel, I become a complainer, someone who should "toughen up"; if I tell a white lie and say I'm doing fine, even as wrist braces adorn my hands and the pain in my hip causes me to limp, I become disingenuous. What are those of us with RA to do? My solution thus far rests in being completely honest and transparent: my joints do, in fact, hurt. This body that I occupy is a body in pain. And I will no longer be silent about it, for to fully accept that I have this disease is to write and more importantly speak this disease into existence. Part of that acceptance rests in telling the truth of my body.

So, how am I doing? I don't know. I embody a space of pain and no pain, guilt and freedom, fear and acceptance. All I know is that I don't feel well but that I am actively working on getting better. And maybe in that march toward improvement lies the answer to this dreaded question.

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