How Do You Feel?

When typing the title, I totally heard it in my head as the computer in Star Trek IV:

I do not understand the question

Perhaps it's coincidence, but sometimes my first thought when I hear the question, "How do you feel?" or "How are you?" is that I do not understand the question. Are you asking how I'm feeling in reference to how I normally feel living with psoriatic arthritis, amongst other maladies? Or are you asking in comparison to "normal" people? Do you really want to know how I feel, or do you just want me to say something like, "fine, thank you" and move on?

If you are really interested in how I feel, but are talking about how I feel in relation to healthy people, we need to go with the Wong-Baker pain scale:

My pain on my worst days would be a ... ummm.... wait - where's the want-to-rip-off-my-own-leg-and-beat-myself-into-unconsciousness face?  This pain scale must be defective. Is 10 really what the worst pain you've experienced looks like? I make a worse face than that when I get head-butted in the nose by a baby, which just happened to have happened today.

Let's move on to the most awesomest pain scale designed by Hyperbole and a Half genius Allie Brosh (I highly recommend you check out her blog, especially: ). She knows that of which she draws. It is my opinion that all rheumatologist's offices should have this pain scale in every exam room:

This part of the pain scale pretty much goes along with the Wong-Baker scale, but definitely leaves room for improvement. I think the hands help a lot in communicating the level of pain. But wait - there's more!

Now isn't that better? As you can see - this accurately depicts greater levels of pain. Levels of which Wong and Baker never dreamed. Levels of pain to which people with autoimmune diseases and other chronic illnesses can relate. 

Still, I never know how to answer that question. What do you say? What do people really want to hear? My usual response is, "relatively good." Relative to how I usually feel, I'm feeling good. Relative to how you usually feel, you'd think I'd be rushing to the ER so they could show me the Wong-Baker scale and I could give them an inaccurate perception of my pain level. That is, unless you live with a friend such as Sporadic Artie and understand what pain is. 

How do I feel? I do not understand the question.


  1. No one knows the pain anyone feels? It is just a socially accepted (not necessarily realistic) question, Your pain is YOUR pain. Your psoriatric arthritis pain is much different then the pain of my recent Brother's death. No one can really know the pain we are going through! Why not just accept the question as one of general concern or one of not knowing what else to say!!!! To pass judgment on the questions to think the one asking knows! Maybe the response should be, "thanks for asking, but if you don't want to know it s ok! If you do, I have time to share! But, the more important question is: How are you feeling ((doing)?"

    1. I understand where you're coming from, Frank. I'm not saying it's wrong for people to ask - I ask people the same thing all the time, as it's the socially appropriate thing to do - or I'm genuinely concerned about the person. I guess the point is that how to answer the question for those of us who live with chronic pain is an internal struggle sometimes. Some of the people we encounter really want to know. Some don't. It's difficult many days to figure out who is who. I not only get asked this by friends and family (who usually really want to know how I'm doing), but at the grocery store and other stores, when I run into acquaintances, and other situations when it's usually, but not always, a quick socially appropriate question. In these situations it can be that the person - say the woman who works in a store I frequent who has seen me go from walking unassisted, to canes, and occasionally in a wheelchair - is someone I don't really know, but who really is interested ... or it could be that I assume they're interested and they're not and my response is longer than necessary. It's also difficult not to come off as complaining when I do share how I'm really feeling ... and awkward to feel like I can't really share. It's even difficult to be asked by my rheumatologist - who really does need the Brosh pain scale in his office in order for me to effectively give him a number when he asks.
      Everyone's pain is different, and most people can't begin to conceive of the pain I live with every day ... just as I can't conceive of your pain, or the pain my friends who live with chronic pain (whether it be physical, mental, or emotional) feel.

  2. I so understand and appreciate knowing someone else who "gets" the type of pain I deal with daily. I wish there was a way to explain it to others. When I'm asked how I'm doing I often just smile and say I'm doing. Those that know me well can tell from the type of smile how I really am. Others accept it and move on.

  3. MamaNym, Thank-you for putting in words how I feel.


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