Please Stop Saying “I Hope You’re Well” to Your (Chronically Ill) Friends
“I hope you’re well.”
It’s an innocuous enough phrase on the surface, one that folks often use in both professional and personal contexts as a catch-all. But is it as harmless as it seems?
Earlier this year I suffered a terrible accident with my hand smashed in a door that badly injured my left wrist and forearm. During the long course of diagnosis which involved the electrified needles of muscle/nerve damage tests (positive for both) as well as the hell tube also known as an MRI in case of a hairline fracture (thankfully no broken bones), we ultimately discovered that I had carpal tunnel syndrome hiding underneath the intersected injury from the doorsmash. I’m a writer by passion and trade, and watched helplessly as my meager freelancer savings went to orthopedist bills and physiotherapy. Three steroid injections and six months later, I’m still on limited computer time and Corticosteroid jabs will be my new normal until I’ll inevitably require surgery. The pain has been a nightmare, but the hell of not being able to write at my old pace has been just as heartbreaking. This is the first ever blog post I’ve fully written on my phone because it’s slightly easier on my body. (Yes, I’ve heard of voice-to-text. No, it doesn’t work for me.)
I’m seeking to make peace with the fact that my hands will never be 100% okay again. Every second of this is a festival of suck. And as I’m struggling to heal, both body and depressed mind, I keep receiving the same message from friends:
“I hope you’re well.”
The only time I personally use this phrase is in professional emails, where it’s polite and we have no expectation to discuss personal matters. In my new chronic pain context and coming from a friend, I’ve quickly come to find this statement offensive, akin to the performative care of unsolicited advice. Like they don’t have time or desire for a proper check-in, but also don’t want to come across as an inattentive friend. Self-edification. Pretend care. Cold. It’s dismissive, shuts down open communication, and in certain contexts feels casually cruel to assume that anyone in this day and age, let alone me, is doing well.