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“Well Enough”: How We Talk About Our Health

April 27, 2018

Having a chronic health issue or disability often means having good days and bad days. Depending on your own situation, you may outwardly look healthy to other people, even if you don’t feel well at all.

It’s easy to get into the habit of saying you’re fine when people ask, whether you are or not, rather than admitting you don’t feel well at all. Admitting you don’t feel well turns the conversation to your health, rather than whatever you were going to talk about. The challenge here is that by denying how badly you feel, you’re implicitly telling yourself that you don’t matter, and you’re telling everyone else to just move along and not pay attention to you. On the other hand, it can be nice when you’re feeling badly to not dwell on it and focus on work or another project instead.

“Well Enough”

A friend of mine who’s been navigating her own health journey for a few years has a novel solution to this problem. When someone asks how she is, and she’s doing well enough to be out of the house and working on projects, she says she’s doing “well enough.” I love this response. It’s authentic to her experience, that today isn’t the best day of her life and she’s not feeling fabulous, but she is here and ready to work. “Well enough” also has the virtue of not inviting further discussion about whether she’s slept or how bad the pain is today.

The other thing I love about “well enough” is that I think it raises the question of whether we need to feel amazing all the time. Who doesn’t have struggles in their lives, whether it’s their physical health or stuff going on in their social and emotional wellbeing? We all know you can absolutely be in good physical health and still feel horrible and unable to face the world because sad or stressful things have been happening. Likewise, you can have some physical limitations going on, and still feel really good in your social and emotional life.

There Can Be More To Life Than Health

There’s an old adage that if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything. Disability and health challenges show us that this maxim isn’t entirely true. Certainly, some diseases, like the flu, can really ruin your enjoyment of everything while you’re under the weather. But managing a disability or chronic health problem doesn’t need to ruin your life.

What if the next time someone asked how you were, you said “well enough?” What would it mean to acknowledge that good enough can be good enough, most of the time?