No, I’m Not Okay. And Neither Are You. When “Empathy” is Just More Gaslighting Horseshit.

When anyone asks a chronically ill (or any) woman under capitalism and patriarchy whether she is “okay” what answer do they reasonably expect?  On our best day, women under this system are mined for our resources and used as targets for male perversion and violence and yes, we have thoughts and feelings about that, as pointless as those thoughts and feelings may be.  These are probably NOT thoughts and feelings of hope, pleasure, leisure, control, fulfillment, safety, gratitude or anything positive unless the woman being asked is a masochist (or pretending to be one to get by).  So what is the correct answer when someone asks us, in all seriousness, how we are currently faring in our lifelong role as useful object and target?

In the same vein, how is someone with an untreatable, incurable, progressive chronic illness expected to respond when someone asks us if we are “okay” when they already know we aren’t?  What are sick people supposed to come up with when what our interrogators are really asking, in essence, is for us to take time out of OUR day and energy out of OUR reserves to make THEM feel okay about the fact that WE are never going to be okay ever again, where in fact we were never really okay in the first place even before we got sick on top of everything else.  And neither is the person asking probably okay themselves if they are honest.  No, I’m actually not ok, mkay, and more than likely neither are you.

I am not a masochist and after living in this body and mind for over 40 years I can report that I am fundamentally incapable of and disinterested in lying about being “okay” or about anything.  Out of both exhaustion for mind-fucking rituals and principle, I generally no longer ask other women how they are or tell them that I “hope they are okay” and if I do it’s only because I know they aren’t okay but I’m hoping they are relatively okay and that things aren’t getting demonstrably worse.  Implicit in my fauxquest for information I already know, I hope they will feel free to tell me honestly how things are including if they are getting worse but really, I expect that if something is going on that they want me to know about that they will just tell me without the mind-fucking, gaslighting ritual of waiting to be asked first.  Perhaps unsurprisingly to those who perform and expect these rituals, I have lost friends (well, acquaintances) due to my failure to reliably make fauxquests for information I already fucking know but guess what?  If I ever had the energy to do that, and I never really did, I certainly don’t have it now and I also don’t have the energy to entertain fauxquests for information from other people who should fucking know better than to gaslight a sick woman under capitalism and patriarchy by asking whether she is “okay.”

Whenever a woman asks another woman under capitalism and patriarchy whether she’s okay, a puppy dies.  And whenever a woman under capitalism and patriarchy, when asked if she is okay, responds that she’s fine, the woman responding dies.  Most of us have fallen on this sword a million times and unless and until we are too sick to perform this gaslighting ritual, will fall on it a million more.  This is what passes as female friendship and female empathy under capitalism and patriarchy in fact: forcing each other to vocalize — literally vocalize — our contentment with being oppressed.

15 thoughts on “No, I’m Not Okay. And Neither Are You. When “Empathy” is Just More Gaslighting Horseshit.

  1. “How are you?” and “Are you okay” are the two most insincere and shallow questions I have ever come across. I actually wrote a blog post about it two years ago. I had run into a male friend in the grocery store and he asked me “how are you?” When I ask someone one of these two questions I am asking with sincerity and compassion. When this guy asked me I responded honestly because I expect that from others. He cut me off midsentence because he truly did not want to know. Today my sister asked if I was okay because she was concerned about a question I had asked her. I think she thought I was suicidal for some reason. I told her that this topic was merely on my mind today. Then I also gave her the answer which shuts most people up and it did her: “as for being okay, I am ill 24/7/365.” I have not received a text response since. Why bother asking something you do not want a sincere and honest answer to? It is a waste of everyone’s time.

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  2. GOD that’s the worst, when they cut you off midsentence when you are telling them something you don’t want to talk about anyway and only tried because they said they wanted to know! We don’t have the energy to waste that way and I am ALWAYS amazed at well peoples’ willingness to waste sick people’s time and energy. As if we have it to waste like they do, and they obviously have plenty if they are going to ask stupid questions they don’t even want the answer to. They just don’t get it at all: even if I wanted to tell them my personal business, it would be so draining that I probably shouldn’t, and they should definitely never require another person to drain themselves that way. But they always do. You get me. ❤

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  3. Society can’t allow women to tell the truth – everything would fall apart in no time flat. (A woman once said that much better than I.) When asked that question, i wince, knowing that a real answer is neither wanted nor expected.
    You are in my thoughts, FCM, always.


  4. You know, that this is what passes as female friendship may be the worst part of it. This is the best we can hope for in our relationships as females and it’s so laughably inadequate that just thinking about it puts me into spasms of revulsion and grief. Women have nothing going for us do we? Even our so-called friendships are an exercise in conformism and humiliation/masochism. Even what goes on in our private spaces, and in our most supportive, caring moments with other women and what is meant to nourish, heal and sustain us in reality is pure poison. Seeing this for what it is is just another slap in the face but it’s the truth isn’t it? The last paragraph of this post may be the starkest paragraph I’ve ever written and that’s saying quite a lot. At least it feels that way to me.


  5. That last paragraph was heartbreaking, but also cleansing in the way that the truth always is. I don’t think I have much else say about it all. For some reason, I wake up each morning in a panic about my own individual circumstances, but when I’m falling asleep I think of the other women who’s voices I have read. You are all in my thoughts each night.

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  6. A friend of mine, who is visibly ill and impaired, always says “It’s so good to see you.” It is good to see her, too. We are both still able to see one another. Sometimes I tell her what new autoimmune disease has cropped up. Or she tells me about what going wrong for her. She is one of the people I appreciate most in the world.

    There are plenty of people I don’t want to tell what’s going on with me, increasingly so. Mostly these are people I don’t spend much time with. I’m drawing inward, I think a natural response. Just say “hi” and let it go at that. Conserve energy.

    I saw a doctor recently to consult about yet another autoimmune diagnosis. I’ve never liked him much. He tends to minimize everything and the signals are that you are supposed to act fine and smile cheerfully. I’ve always taken everything he’s said with a grain of salt. If my insurance didn’t pay, I wouldn’t see him. But he’s better than most in that he doesn’t try to push too much medicine, or even any medicine on me, medicine that just made me worse. I don’t smile cheerfully. I do question him carefully, sometimes digging and challenging, always politely. I want to find out what he knows in case it might help me figure it out for myself.

    You are so right about these rituals. They are energy wasters for those with limited energy. You are right about so many others having autoimmune diseases and not knowing it. WTF is going on with that?

    Thank you for your writing.


  7. Hi Bluejay and thanks for your comment! It’s good to see you! For real, I’ve been thinking about you and wondering where you’d gotten off to. I’m sorry you are having additional symptoms. I am too. Currently I have a red hot marble where one of my toe joints should be. Looks like I probably have RA now on top of everything else. Or is it just the Crohn’s? Things are getting terrifying now that everyone is getting sick. How long will we limp along like this before “personal responsibility” goes out the window and we start getting (for example) a living stipend that’s unconnected to our ability to work? Some places are already doing that in the US as an experiment. Some places have always done that (Russia I’ve heard gives women a free baseline apartment and they never have to partner with men in order to not be homeless. No wonder all the anti-Russia propaganda in this country, I thought, the first time someone told me.) You know, I am a very private person too, it’s not like I’m one to talk about my health problems when in line at the bank like some people do. But when people who SHOULD want to know, and actually ask, but really only want to hear that you’re getting better and decidedly do NOT want to hear anything else, it really hurts. I have been amazed at how much people can actually hurt me, when I’ve thought all this time that I really didn’t care what people thought and in the case of my family I already knew they didn’t care like normal people would care. But for them to literally only want to hear one thing, even if it’s a lie, has been a revelation honestly. It’s like they aren’t even human. It’s hard to describe. I really wonder if a lot of my relatives are autistic too, I mean that would make sense. My mom’s mom died of diabetes which they are now acknowledging as an autoimmune disease. It’s not far fetched at all to think she gave birth to 6 children with autism (so, my mom and all her sibs). I’ve never met such cold people in my life although for me it’s always been what a normal family is like. Things are just going to hell honestly and I will be very glad when it ends.


  8. Also, I want to add that I don’t really even want to talk about it! Like I would literally rather have no contact at all than to have to discuss this with most people. I am just completely over discussing it and explaining it and re-explaining it, defending it and all of it. But no one will let that happen and you can’t just say nothing. They demand that you tell them you’re ok basically. You can’t say nothing and you also can’t tell the truth so what’s left? It’s exhausting.


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