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The "how are you doing?" question


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Do you ever feel uneasy or afraid answering the question "how are you doing?" for fear people will hold you to your answer?

I've found myself not knowing what to say when people ask about my health.

I've been rather non-functional for about 9 months now....Too dizzy and syncopal to work, or drive, or do much of anything out of the house except cardiac rehab. I am somewhat better overall than when i started treatment. I can stand longer and sit up longer, but that's about it. My energy and stamina are about zero when i try to go out or get under stress, and every time i have a hormonal fluctuation like PMS or my period or ovulation, i get worsening symptoms which usually incapacitate me....leaving me flat in bed (my bad days).

Since this is "better" than when i started treatment, does this mean my treatment is working? Or does it mean that I have been resting my body and time has passed?

I get really frustrated when people say, "oh you're better," when i know that after i see them, i'll still have to go home and lie flat for the rest of the day. I'm better *compared to* not being able to move out of bed, but i'm still not functioning well.

How do you answer this question without getting held to some sort of standard for all time?

Even if i say to someone that i feel terrible, then i feel like i have to act like i feel terrible when i'm around them so they don't think that i'm exaggerating. Anyone else know what i mean?

Extremely at a loss for words,


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Kristen, I grapple with the same issues. With my closest friends, they know it's a long term illness, so when I say "i'm feeling better than last week", they understand that it can be such a transient thing and I could be sicker tomorrow. They usually reply by saying something like "glad to hear you're having a good day." To me, that's a comfort--it means they understand my day by day life.

People who I see often but am not that close with--I usually take one of two paths. The first is for people I think wouldn't understand, or who I don't envision really getting to know much better than cursory contact at work. I usually just respond to the "how're you doing?" with "good..." , or "just okay, but glad to be here." that kind of thing. The second way is for those I'm going to be working with a long time--I may sometimes preface my answer with "well, I have a genetic defect, so things can change daily...for this day I'm _____ (insert adjectives here).

Also, I make a point of giving genuine thanks to the people in my life who keep asking that question even when the answer isn't always nice... Literally, I asy "I appreciate that you keep asking even though you know that sometimes my answer is going to be that 'I feel pretty terrible'". I want my friends who stick by me to know that I truly appreciate that they're sticking with me--in good times and bad.

Not sure if that really helps you. Nina

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Kristen, I too struggle with this. The real answer is I never feel well. Some days are better than others, some months are better than others. If I say I am feeling sick to some but its a good day, they assume that I am not up for doing anything. If I say I am feeling sick and am doing something, some people think I am exaggerating. Some people tell me I look great on days I am feeling my worst. Sometimes, people tell me I look awful. Some notice when I am symptomatic (like my kids), others don't. Some I find, ask me so much, that I find myself telling them sick, and then they think I complain too much.

It is the trickiness of what they call a hidden illness. My daughter and I both sympathise, because we both run into the same dilemnas.

I tend to respond now with: its not one of my better days, it is one of my better days, thanks for asking, and then tell them other than my health I am doing pretty good.

I look forward to hearing others suggestions!

Take Care! Renee

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Thanks for the suggestions...


It's really great that you appreciate your friends and family verbally for asking about your health. That's something I need to do more often. I think I take for granted the fact that they hear negative answers to that question all the time. I've realized that constantly hearing about my health problems might not be the most uplifting thing, so i'm trying to keep things in perspective and only talk about it when i have a real problem.

It's funny, i've gotten so used to being dizzy and tired, that when outsiders ask how i am, i sometimes just say, "i'm good." And then they say, oh so you're all better? Then i have to inumerate my symptoms to them. It's like i live with a constant background noise of symptoms and forget that people don't assume it already.


Thanks for the suggestions...I really like the "it's not one of my better days / it's one of my better days" response. It makes it so that i'm comparing my current condition to how i normally feel and doesn't set up an absolute standard of "good" or "bad." Thanks for the input.

I'd love to hear more suggestions if there are any....especially explaining fluctuations of symptoms over a period of hours or minutes....that's something i find very difficult to get across to people. Like, for instance, a month ago i nearly fainted (felt very symptomatic), then an hour later was able to sit up and play a board game (virtually symptom free). it's very hard to explain this rapid decline/recovery thing to people. Sometimes i think it just looks like i'm making up symptoms to be convenient for what i want or don't want to do.

Edited by JaneEyre9
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Here is what I usually say: "Oh, I have my good days and bad days and sometimes, good hours and bad hours. So, I'm just taking things one day at a time right now and sometimes, one hour at a time." And I smile and most people agree with me and say that's all anyone can do really.

Hope this helps!


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My feeling is you have to be the judge as to how interested the questioner really is, and how often and how deeply you will be involved with them.

To tell you the truth, many relatives do not want a long-winded answer, and they are the ones closest to me.

My favorite answer is "fine". If they seem to want to know more, I say I have a chronic medical condition that makes it difficult for me to stand or sit for any length of time. And you could always add, "thanks for asking".

That's about all people want to know. If I get beyond that, their eyes glaze over.

Typically I give a short and sweet answer, but I do not stay standing talking to them as I cannot stand for long.

BTW the one I talk to most about this ailment, other than you folks, is another chronically ill person in my church. She has bipolar and fibromyalgia and insomnia,. We understand each other more than able-bodied people understand us.

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Guest tearose

I say any of the following kind of things. Depending on who "needs to know" and "how much I want to share"

This is for the person who doesn't get an answer"

"Oh, thanks for asking, how are you and how is the family?" ( Total avoidance)

This is for the person who gets a little answer and then gets no more:

"Well, for me, maintaining my health is a full-time job! Good thing I know myself well and don't mind the hours, (insert polite chuckle) thanks for asking....and what is going on in your life?" (some avoidance)

This is for the person who cares and yet I don't want to say everything:

"Thank you for asking, I still have my health challenges but I am managing them. I have ups and downs very similar to MS. I kinda have relapses and remissions. But I am managing thanks to a good attitude and a good internist." How are you doing?" (selective sharing)

This is my style, hope it helps!

You are never to feel you MUST share more than you wish! Not everyone really cares, not everyone can handle the truth, not everyone deserves to know your business!

Protect yourself from those who "just don't get it" and let go of their inevitable stupid responses!

best regards, tearose

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I just had a conversation with a friend who said "man, I didn't realize it was that bad" when i mentioned in passing that i couldn't drive. This is after having had 2 ablations and being in the hospital 3 additional times for POTS stuff...which ended up being 2 months total time in the hospital within the last year and a half...and MANY days of having to crawl along the floor to get from room to room. But telling her I couldn't drive

(which i haven't been able to do for years) was what made her say hmmm. I mean, what does she think has been going on here if the not being able to drive is what makes her say...hmm things must not be good. that's like the most insignificant thing to me....when you can't walk or stand up...I don't know...you would think that would sound worse to someone than not being able to drive. I guess I've found that with some people no matter how well you try to explain what's going on....they're just not going to get it. With my closer friends who don't get it at all I always try to tell them exactly how I've been feeling because I want so badly for them to understand...with the ones who do already understand or with people who are just aquaintances I just say i'm doing okay and that I have my good and bad days. I had some friends who didn't come to visit me over x-mas because "isn't she always sick" It's not like I had the flu...it's a chronic thing people! So what I'm trying to say :-).....I understand.

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I only get into it with my immediate family as far as ALL t he details.... My husband, parents and sister know it all, but I never really talk about it with others...

If somene asks me how I am doing I just say " doing good" I try not to focus on my day to day health situation as much as other parts of my life....

I just feel that giving out the weekly details to friends and aquaintences are not worth it..... It took a while to get to feel comfortable with feeling like this, but I have no problem saying no to someone if I dont feel like doing something, and I dont ever feel I owe anyone an explanation for anything I do in life.

Believe me it took time to get there, but I am glad I finally did :)

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Great answers, but the one that brought a smile to my face was "fair to partly cloudy, mostly cloudy". I am going to use this one!! :P

I generally say "Right at this minute I am .....". It's honest and accurate. My health can change rapidly, about to faint and then able to go and hang washing on the line etc. So I think all I can do is comment on how I am right now.

I also agree that you give a variety of answers depending on the person asking. Sometimes it is just easier to say "fine" and at other times you need to offload on to someone. As said earlier, you don't have to reveal anything you don't want to.

At the moment, I am partly cloudy and in need of a good lie down".


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Hello to all.

great answers to this question, which the answer can vary from hour to hour depending on the day. I don't go into things very much with people outside my immediate family members, I find that most times outside people just do not understand.

I usually say good or fine even though i'm dragging but I have said "well, I'm on this side of the dirt, so I'm happy". That got me a real good laugh from that person.

I have this one lady at work that always ask me how I'm feeling and always has this concerned look towards me like I'm dying or something....that makes me real uncomfortable. I must look worse than I thought.

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I normally just say something like 'not too bad, and you?', which is a fairly common response here anyway - and the meaning is true, I could be worse, but I could be better...

Or, one of my friends used to say 'I'm FINE, thank you' and then say under her breath ________ (Insert Expletive) Up, Insecure, Nausious and Emotional'. I thought that was kinda funny - as only she new what she really meant....

Edited by d4g7
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This site has been mentioned before on here but check it out again,


They have some new products and even have a sale going on right now.

I've been dealing with this topic a lot lately of what to say when people ask you how you are or how to respond when people say, "Well you look good".

So, I recently bought one of the sweatshirts from the link above. I bought the one that says, "But you LOOK good" on the front and on the back it lists the top 10 things NOT to say to someone with an invisible illness.

The shirt has actually been something people have "listened to" (when they weren't listening to me) and I wore it for a little over an hour while running to the post office and the grocery store the other day and I had a couple of people ask me about it. I met a woman with MS who is struggling a lot so the shirt turned out to be good on several levels.

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Sally-- your line about which side of the dirt cracked me up :)

Pooh- that website is so great...thanks for linking me. I need to get one of those shirts for valentine's day! what a great way to get the message out about invisible disability...much better than fainting in public. i tried that, and though it does get the message across, the t-shirt is a much more comfortable idea.

my response has recently been "i'm ok," which got a ridiculous response from someone, so i decided i might need to change things up a bit. Thanks for all the advice. This illness (as well as my MCS disability) has been a long journey of developing skills to protect myself socially....i've learned that i can say no without feeling guilty. i've learned i don't owe people and explanation for things. And more importantly, i've learned that i don't have to give personal details to anyone if i don't feel like it. I always felt before that to be honest, i had to tell everyone everything and make sure they understood and accepted me, but I thank God that I'm growing out of that!!

Your advice is so much appreciated. Each phrase will be good for me to think over and use the in the right situation. Ultimately though, if you get stupid responses even from saying "i'm ok," then you probably just have to ignore that person and move on :)

Edited by JaneEyre9
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