By Maria Myrback
When I lived in Wyoming, the greeting, “How are you doing?” was an actual inquiry about your health and wellbeing. I’ve since learned that, in the southeast it’s just the same as saying “Hi there!”. In a way that really perturbs me because we really should be checking in on each other. It’s a way of letting others know that we care enough to ask after our fellow human.
Unfortunately, courtesy here requires us to say something along the lines of “I’m good. How are you?”. If you respond with the truth, you’re over-sharing or making someone uncomfortable because they really didn’t want to know that you hurt so much that your house has become a demilitarized zone, or that, in spite of being on medication, you’re still having seizures. Or that the side effects of your meds kept you up until 4 am.
I’ve learned that most people, outside of family and friends, really don’t want to know the answer. They just want you to tell them that you’re good so that they can go on with their day without having to think about someone else’s health issues. After all, if it can happen to you, it might happen to them, too, and the average Joe who has their health doesn’t want to think about what it’s like NOT to be healthy.
Which brings us to the “I’m F.I.N.E.” response. Some of you may already be familiar with what it means to be F.I.N.E. For those who don’t, it’s an acronym for:
F.I.N.E. covers most situations handily. Having a bad day? You’re F.I.N.E. Meds not doing what they’re supposed to? You’re F.I.N.E. Mourning because your chronic illness has completely killed your long-term life goals? You’re F.I.N.E. Oh yeah. Many of us know this feeling really well.
And while you know it’s an honest response, it is also an acceptable reply to people who just don’t want to hear about your health challenges or are only asking because of societal conventions. You can also use it if you’re tired of explaining the same issues over and over again. I know I get sick of explaining my chronic illness repeatedly, so occasionally it’s a relief just to use F.I.N.E. to avoid the stress and hassle of telling your story yet again.
Most importantly, remember that it’s okay to be F.I.N.E. You’re going through something very difficult and it has changed your life. Your illness has shaken you down for your lunch money and punched you in the gut. So you are perfectly within your rights to feel F.I.N.E.