“How are you?” is one of the most common greetings I hear. It is ingrained in the culture and is distinctly American.
Unless the person is a close friend, the anticipated answer is “good” or “fine.” If you are feeling terrible, “a little sick” is acceptable. As someone who worked in retail for years, I can attest that the cashier is not expecting your life’s story. It is a greeting, after all.
I hate that question. And although I am guilty of asking it on occasion, thinking about it irritates me.
Between the time of getting tested for the Huntington’s disease gene and getting the results, I thought that question would make me explode. When someone I didn’t know well asked, I felt like I had to put on a facade. I would say that I was doing OK, even though that was far from the truth.
I developed general anxiety in January. It was after my mother’s diagnosis, and on top of finishing school and worrying about the job I would start after graduation. The month between being tested and receiving the results was the apex of that anxiety.
I’m an honest person, so putting on a front felt like a betrayal to myself. But I couldn’t get over the feeling that this wasn’t information that people wanted to know.
The week leading up to the results, I decided to try an experiment. Every time someone asked me how I was, I would answer honestly. Maybe I wouldn’t tell all of the details, but I would share how I was feeling.
I was amused by the pause after I would say, “I’m anxious today,” as the person tried to decide on an appropriate response. However, it did not go as badly as I expected. Plus, I felt much better when I wasn’t flat-out lying.
For me, saying aloud how I’m feeling — complaining about an annoying stranger, or explaining why I am crying over the death of a book character — helps me to process it. That’s why the experiment was therapeutic. It helped the feeling of exploding.
I hope one day to live in a world where “How are you?” means that the person asking genuinely wants to hear the answer.
Note: Huntington’s Disease 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 Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.