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Answering 'How Are You?' as a Person With Parkinson's

Charles Mickles
Man hiding behind paper cutout of a face.

“I’m fine.”

How many times a day do we say this or hear this from others? It is our go-to response to the question, “How are you doing?” Many times we give this response without even thinking, when often we are anything but fine. Why do we have such a hard time being honest?

I will admit, this perfectly describes me. I have had physical difficulties for so long that saying “I’m fine” simply became a habit. I spent every day in pain. Almost every action was a struggle. I was always tired, and I seesawed between happiness and discouragement. Often, I just did not want to talk about it, because I was tired of discussing and hearing about it.

It was just easier to say fine, smile, and everyone move on with their day. I rationalized this little white lie by simply telling myself that they did not really want to know anyway. What we both wanted, I told myself, was a quick, simple interaction so we could both get on with our day, having at least been pleasant to each other.

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While this was true sometimes, at other times, I just did not want others to know I was struggling. I felt better keeping the mask up and the illusion of having everything together and intact. For me, it was a matter of pride to show others how well I could handle things. It was also a matter of fear – I did not want to appear vulnerable or weak to anyone.

In reality, those who knew me best were not fooled, and some really close to me called me on it more than once. I will admit, when I got my diagnosis of Parkinson’s, both literally and figuratively, I was “All Shook Up” – pun intended. When my symptoms got worse, it was the first time in my life that I could not just push on through. I could not simply “put on a happy face” and muscle through, mainly because I felt so bad. Once I had the diagnosis, sometimes I could not even talk about it without tears; they would just flow no matter what I did.

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In those moments, I could not even fake being fine, and I discovered how much I had shortchanged myself and others. By not sharing with people where I really was or how I was doing, I was robbing myself and others. I was robbing myself of the simple release of my feelings and the comfort from others that sharing could bring. I was robbing others of the chance to care and comfort, and I was taking away the chance for us to grow stronger in our relationship.

It is not easy for any of us to be vulnerable and share with others if we are struggling, but it is so necessary in so many ways. Without letting others know where we really are, I believe we will never find the strength, healing, encouragement and support we need to move forward. Instead, we will isolate ourselves and fall into discouragement and depression.

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Next time you ask someone “How are you,” make sure you are ready for any answer, and if you are asked that question, make sure you give an honest answer. If we never let people know how we are truly doing, how will we ever find the strength, healing and comfort we need to keep moving forward? We need to take off the masks and be honest – and yes, this is the pot calling the kettle black.

So how am I doing? Both emotionally and physically, literally and metaphorically, I’m all shook up (that’s a joke, but also very true). There is not an area of my life that has not been shaken in the past year. Honestly, there have been good days and very discouraging days. Days when I could laugh, and days when I just cried. Days I felt upbeat, and days of immense discouragement. Days when nothing could stop me and days when I did not think I could go on. Today is a good day; I’m tired but encouraged, because I believe God is with me. We will see how tomorrow goes, but if you ask, I promise I will be honest.

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