As I was going to bed a few nights ago, my husband asked me if I was okay.
“I hurt, but I’m fine.”
He shook his head. “You say that all the time. If you’re hurting, you’re not fine. You don’t have to say you’re fine if you’re not.”
As a Southern lady (*eyeroll*), you only reply, “I’m fine. How are you?” if someone asks how you’re doing. It’s seen as impolite to do otherwise. Add chronic illness on top of that, and being honest equals making someone else feel inconvenienced or bad.
Granted, not everyone really cares how you’re feeling. They ask simply to be polite. But, at some point, you stop being able to tell who is asking to make conversation from those who truly want to know how you are.
Several months ago, I was sitting on a bench before church. I was sitting because it hurt too much to stand for too long. But as people came by and asked how I was, I said, “I’m fine.”
Then a friend stopped and looked me straight in the eye. “No, really. How are you?”
I froze. No one ever called me on my BS before. He knew I was lying, and he cared about knowing the truth.
These are the friends you need to remember. It’s good to be able to just drop the pretense and admit that, hey, I feel like crap. It’s tiring and adds to your stress to always pretend.
Family members should always want the truth, but the sad fact is sometimes they don’t. My husband wants to know, and he doesn’t like it when I hide how I feel. My dad, God rest his soul, didn’t want the details. He couldn’t handle hearing them. He loved me, and he couldn’t bear the thought of his little girl in pain. I understood that.
Then there are family members you choose not to be honest with. My brother has OCD and is bipolar. I choose to tell him only what is critical. I tell him if I’m in the hospital, if I’m having surgery, and if something new and important has happened (like a new diagnosis). I don’t give him the daily details of my health. He doesn’t need that stress in his life.
But who do we lie to most of all? Ourselves, no doubt. It took months for me to finally admit to myself and then to my husband that I couldn’t work anymore. I kept telling myself there had to be a solution to my fatigue, if I did this one additional thing I’d be fine. I didn’t want to admit that it was all I could do to get through the day, and some days I didn’t do that very well.
To have peace in my life, I had to be honest. With myself. With my family and friends. There is no peace when you wear a mask. It’s only a facade. Dropping the mask doesn’t create instant peace, but it’s a start.