When people ask how I am, I usually say ‘fine’. But when I’m sick (and they know about it), this changes. I don’t want to say ‘fine’, because I don’t feel fine.
I feel sick. I feel tired. My legs are 1000 pounds each and superglued to the ground. My eyes feel like they have to be opened with one of those heavy-lifting cranes. When I’m talking, my tongue feels like a foreign thing, something I can’t control.
So I tell them I’m tired.
And they say: “Oh, yeah, me too.”
Everybody’s tired and stressed
So I never tell them again that I’m tired. Or stressed. Because everyone feels tired and stressed.
But I’ve felt tired and stressed out like how most people feel tired and stressed and now that I’m sick, it’s 10 000 times worse.
In one of my previous blogs, I wrote: “I am so tired I feel like I’ll never live long enough to ever get over it.”
It’s overwhelming. It took over my whole life. I can’t function anymore. It’s not tired-going home and watching tv until it’s time to go to sleep. Or ‘I’ll just order in for dinner’. It’s skipping dinner because I’m too tired to even eat, and crashing in bed before I can even properly put my shoes away.
But not falling asleep because I’m too anxious and stressed out.
They don’t understand
I don’t want to invalidate their feelings about being tired and busy and stressed. I’m sure they feel that way, I can’t say how tired they feel, so I can’t say: “Not how tired I am, because you’re not sick.”
But there’s simply no word to describe how I feel, without someone thinking they feel the same way.
So when they ask: “How are you?”, I say “Ok.”
But they get annoyed when I have to cancel again because I’m too tired to go meet them. They wonder why I’m able to travel abroad, but not take a 2-hour train trip to the other side of the country, or watch a movie with them one night.
They don’t realize that a plane trip is much safer in my head than a bus or train.
They don’t realize that it’s not the activity that takes the energy away from me, but their can’t sit still-personality.
They don’t realize that a city trip abroad can be adjusted to staying in more, walking less, going to less touristy places, and gives me energy from being in the sun, doing what I love most, and having someone with me who doesn’t pressure me to even go out to dinner in the evening.
Not the same for everyone
Of course, this is different for everybody. Travel works for me, but only half. I can’t take too many trains and buses or transfer too much because that’s too stressful and overwhelming, so staying in a walkable city and booking an airport transfer is best for me right now.
Just as I can’t do a walking tour (which I love!) but I can spend a day wandering around a city with a lot of coffee and lunch breaks in between.
I can’t do trains and buses, but a plane is fine. I don’t have to pay attention to the stops, and the passengers don’t change every couple of minutes.
I can watch a movie, I can have some people around me. But some people suck a lot more energy out of me (not on purpose, of course) than others.
So what I say when someone asks how I am?
- When it’s people who aren’t that close to me, I just tell them I’m fine.
- People who know I’m sick, but don’t understand when I say I’m tired, I just tell: “Feeling better than a couple of months ago.”
- Most of my best friends and family try to understand me. I tell them how I feel that day. If I’m productive, or excited, or too tired to even turn to my other side.
- Some of my friends and family know how I feel. They’ve felt the same way due to a variety of reasons. They don’t ask me often, because they know it stresses me out and if it’s important, I’ll just tell them. But when they ask, I tell them exactly how I feel too.
Oh, and how to respond? When you know someone’s sick or has issues, just tell them:
“I’m sorry to hear that. Hopefully tomorrow is better. What can I do to help?”
Featured image by Redd Angelo on Unsplash, second photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash