I’m convinced there’s not another word that could be taken to mean so many different things. When I go to the doctor, that’s often all I hear. “Your labs are fine.” You’re fine. Everything’s fine.
On paper, I’m fine. I went back to the Rheumatologist last week and he doesn’t even need to see me again for another year. Obviously to him, I’m fine. I am starting to think that maybe we accidentally stumbled upon the least of my problems (Sjogren’s Syndrome), and have yet to discover the bulk of my issues. Constant stomach problems and continued weight loss, but I’m fine! No worries here.
And yet, “fine” is my favorite thing to say when people ask me how I am doing. I don’t know exactly why I do it on any particular day, but here are my theories:
- Comparatively at the moment, I really am fine. ‘Fine’ is such a relative term. My response may really mean – compared to having my insides revolt against me the last three days, today I’m fine.
- Much of the time, people don’t want to know the real answer to the “how are you” question. When I have been honest in my response, it makes most people incredibly uncomfortable. Very few people have a clue what to say at that point, and I cannot blame them. Some feel the need to say things like, “it will all get better soon”, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow!” (I may have made that one up), or my personal peeve, “well, you look good!” FYI – that last one is a terrible thing to say to a person with a chronic illness. It may not sound like it in your head, but in ours it’s as if you don’t believe we are really sick. Why the heck anyone would make up a debilitating illness is beyond me.
- Some days, if I tell you the real answer to the question, there is a good possibility I will burst into tears, making us both incredibly uncomfortable. I am trying to appear much stronger than I am in weak moments, so bear with me!
- I do not want to see pity in your eyes. There is a very fine line between showing understanding and pity. The few people who really listen and understand have meant more to me than they will ever know. They also don’t see me as the poor, pitiful, sick Karina. They remind me in my darkest hours, when I have trouble believing it myself, that I still have something, however small, to offer the world.
- Sometimes I want people to believe that I am fine. I simply want to be normal again. I want to be part of the land of the living, where people go to work, attend social events, and don’t spend every waking moment thinking about what’s going in and out of their bodies. I want to have a life outside of this illness!
- I want to believe that I am fine. There’s really something credible to the theory that the status of the mind affects the status of the body. There have been numerous times that I’ve been convinced I will never get better. Of course, if I have that mindset I won’t get better! I have to believe that one day this will end, either in this life or the next, so my “I’m fine” response may mean that I’m trying to convince myself as well as you.
So, what are you supposed to do with my “I’m fine” response? That is an excellent question and sometimes I’m not even sure I know the answer. I guess I just want you to know that sometimes the “I’m fine” can be taken at face value and sometimes it may say so much more. If you truly want to know the real answer, if you have some time to listen and maybe a pocketful of tissues just in case, ask again. If I trust that you really want to know, I may tell you. But don’t do this unless you REALLY want to know. I cannot handle bearing my soul to you if what I get in return is cheap, flippant responses, dismissing everything I have just said. It’s OK to not know what to say. A silent hug speaks much louder than empty words. Also realize that at the moment you ask, I really might be OK, so don’t be offended if my answer stays the same! No matter what I say, please know that I love you for asking but I also may not be ready to tell you. Complicated enough?
At this point you may be itching to know, how am I REALLY doing? I have good days and bad days. I remind myself all the time that I previously only had bad days, so progress is much greater than I sometimes think. I have honestly been feeling much better lately. It may be the diet or a lull but I’ll take either one! I’ve been able to attend the few social events I’ve needed to attend, which six months ago would have been impossible. It’s difficult for me to answer the “how are you” question today since I was just glutened and feel like a train wreck, but the fact that I’m sitting here typing and not lying on the bathroom floor is pretty monumental.
I completed two months on the Autoimmune Protocol before I broke it. The elimination phase was only supposed to require 30 days and I wasn’t completely better so I decided to quit being so strict with myself. If it’s not working anyway, I may as well try to enjoy life a little, right? It may have been a bad move, but using my own intuition with regards to my health has been so refreshing. The first thing I did was drink about a fourth a cup of coffee (yikes!), and I hate to say it, but it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I was incredibly amped from the caffeine and without all the stuff to dress it up, it wasn’t so great. Then I found myself in one of those situations where I was out and about and had to eat something STAT. We pulled up to the only ‘safe’ place for gluten-free folk that’s open on a Sunday, Pie Five. They have the best gluten-free pizza on the planet. Ask Jason, I freaked the whole time we were in line. “Maybe I should just get a salad… but I can’t put anything on my salad… so if I get other veggies and a dressing on my salad (thereby introducing even more forbidden foods), I may as well eat pizza, right? No, I’ll just get a salad… but it’s so expensive just for lettuce. I’m getting pizza. Should I get pizza?” At this point my poor husband must have said in his mind, “The woman I married is insane”, while his response to me was, “Let’s just go”. Realizing my own ridiculousness, I bit the bullet, shut off my brain, and ate the most glorious thing I’ve put in my mouth in two months!! It was incredible!
The other thing to which I trusted my intuition was giving my body a break from most of my supplements. I was taking far too many pills a day and I just felt like my body needed to reset to figure out what problems were most important. It was freeing not having to remember to take my medicine at all times of the day. I learned there are certain things I do still need to take but I also was able to remember that my body knows how to rid itself of certain things without the use of supplements. Wheat, on the other hand, is such a booger. My body can’t seem to get rid of it on its own, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had any. I dream of the day when the things that help me get better are covered by health insurance!
I remind myself daily the dark place from which I’ve come. Sometimes life still seems pretty dark, but I think maybe it’s currently only a bit gray. Remember that waiting room I talked about? I think there’s some light shining underneath one of the doors. Maybe, just maybe, it will open soon. For right now I say, I’M FINE!!
How are you, my dear friends?