We are living in complicated times of imposed isolation and huge emotional overload. Personally, I am at the point that if someone asks me how I’m doing, I either break down and cry or manically widen my eyes and respond in an unusually high-pitched “I’m fiiiine!”
Humor aside, most of us struggle with communicating how we truly feel. Saying “I’m OK” has become a quick exit that may attempt to reflect our mental state, yet skew how others see us.
“How are you?” is a loaded question. If we say we’re OK when we’re not, essentially we are lying. If we are honest and enumerate the worrying issues occupying our thoughts, we might offload a world of misery that will make any encounter awkward.
I’m guilty of saying I’m OK and not really meaning it.
I do this when suffering from conversation fatigue. With endometriosis, this is pretty common.
On most days, I feel a bit odd. If it’s not a particular form of discomfort that’s bothering me, it’s the nagging reminder that I need to request more medication or see my doctor for a check-up.
The disease is on my mind constantly, reminding me of all its scary possibilities. Talking about it, or simply mentioning it, exposes all my fears and imperfections. Some days, I just want to have a break and say I feel 100% fine, whether that’s truthful or not.
On the occasions I’ve decided to be honest, I might say something like, “I am not OK and this is why.” Sadly, the reactions to this approach tend to disappoint me most of the time. The inability of others to understand, or even empathize, can be devastating.
Some people are not good at saying the right thing, or they are dealing with so much themselves that they lack the energy or space for someone else’s troubles. But as the person who has spoken up, facing silence or incomprehension can feel embarrassing. It brings up feelings of deep shame and awkwardness, and it makes me shut off from everyone around me.
It is not our fault that others don’t know how to respond.
Author Brené Brown points out that, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Which is why we shouldn’t curb our honesty because others can’t respond to it. Our honesty can be met with sympathy, and speaking about it not only is truthful, but also healing.
When we cover up the bad days for the sake of others, we facilitate a fake view of this disease. It’s sanitized.
I’m not saying we need to go into explicit detail of the excruciating symptoms we suffer. In truth, it’s exhausting to be open and raw all the time. But we must decide to close up when we don’t feel like sharing, not simply to spare others.
Endometriosis shapes our responses to any life situation, and how others see us.
If I had been open about my ovary pain during the last wedding I attended, maybe I wouldn’t have been judged so harshly. Maybe opening up would have helped others see someone who was in pain, yet who was making a huge effort to smile for the bride and groom. They would have seen my courage, my fighting spirit.
But because I wanted to spare them all of my shame, it fed the belief that I was being difficult. It made unfair labels by others stick. My sickness shaped how others saw me because I didn’t speak up.
It is true that sometimes honesty won’t matter. Some won’t listen, even when presented with facts. But they are the ones who have no place in your imperfect version of life.
We must be our true selves and be vocal about our emotions when we feel like it. And when we need rest, we must shut everything and everyone out. We can close our bedroom door, listen to our favorite album, cuddle with our furry best friend, and give ourselves the kindest of breaks.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.