What I Really Mean When I Say, ‘I’m Fine’

What I Really Mean When I Say, ‘I’m Fine’

“How are you feeling?”

That’s the one question we badly want loved ones to ask. Yet we cringe when they actually ask it.

I have become so accustomed to simply saying, “I’m fine.” After all, that is one of the most commonly used and acceptable answers to a question like that.

Chronic illness world

Kimberli on a high pain day.
Kimberli on a high-pain day. She uses her smile as a shield. (Photo by Kimberli Davino)

However, in the chronic illness world, “I am fine” masks what we really want to say. It may not reflect how we are truly feeling. A real answer may be extremely complicated to explain. A lie is easier for the person asking to hear. A lie takes the pressure off you. You do not have to explain every ache and pain that you are feeling.

So, I stand there and smile on, which has become my new shield of strength, and play my role. Sometimes, I even believe for a split second that I am fine. However, the conversation ends, and I remember that no, I am not fine. I am far from fine. But does someone truly want to hear that repeatedly? How many times can you explain to someone that you do not feel well? “I am fine” has become my comfort zone, my security blanket.

15 things I really mean when I say ‘I am fine’

1. I am not fine, but it is easier to say that than explain how I really am feeling.

2. I am struggling, but do not want you to know because that makes me feel weak.

3. I do not want you to know how I really feel because I can already feel the judgment.

4. We are not in an acceptable place for me to explain how I truly am feeling.

5. I am crashing, but my eyes are open and I am talking to you, so that must mean I am fine.

6. I do not want your pity because I do not feel well, and I do not want you to try to cure me.

7. I am in denial and want to believe that I truly am fine. At the same time, I may be just too tired to answer with anything other than I am fine.

8. For a split second, I may actually feel fine. In that one moment, I am not having a flare or pain. That does not mean I am OK, but it means for that one moment, I can put a smile on and try to handle my day.

9. I do not want to bring either of us down with my reality. The reality is that not much has changed, but I need to focus on staying positive.

10. When I say I am fine, what I really mean is that I am in horrific pain and I want to curl up into a ball and cry.

11. I do not want to burden you with my problems or send my rain cloud over your head.

12. I can try to pretend things are normal.

13. I am fine means I am here, I showed up, I got dressed, and I am fighting to get through the day in one piece.

14. I may have already tried explaining to you once before, and it did not go well.

15. “You are sick again?” is not a response I feel like hearing.


Note: Endometriosis 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 Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.


  1. Theo says:


    I can totally relate with this. I had a pretty major flare while at work on Wednesday.I was still trying to plod through the day when a colleague called on my extension line.

    “Ooh,you don’t sound good? Are you okay?” He asked

    “yeah, I’m fine.”

    “nah,come on. This isn’t your usual cheerful voice. What’s wrong?” He pressed on

    Now, I’d been in pain all morning. I’m on zoladex,but I was still in pain. I had taken DHC an hour prior but was still in pain. Like you said earlier, I wanted someone to ask how I really was. So I let my guard down and said

    “not really. I feel really sick. I’m in crazy pain …”

    “Ah, again??? How come you’re always sick?”

    Right. I shut down. My mistake. Nobody truly understands when I say I’m constantly in pain or severely lethargic…

    • It becomes so annoying! You so badly want someone to ask how you are feeling, so you can just break down and tell them you really do not feel well. For me it is a sense of comfort I am looking for. But then you kick yourself in the behind when you receive comments like “You are sick again?”. It is a vicious cycle for us all! Something many people will just never truly understand!

  2. Cheryl says:

    I am the mother of a daughter with endometriosis, my heart breaks for her every day and I so badly wish I could help her. The last thing I want to do is make her feel worse, so…what is a “good” thing to say when you want to comfort someone with chronic pain? I ask my daughter how she is doing at least three times a day and I do want to hear her every pain, but like you said, it just leaves her still in pain and makes my heart ache.

    • Honestly, the best thing to do is just listen and be there. Sometimes, we do not even want to hear anything. We just need someone to hug and someone to listen to us with no judgement.
      I think you are doing a great job asking her how she is doing though and showing you care. I know it does not exactly help with the pain but trust me, it helps more than you will ever know. Also, I have sat my husband down and told him straight out things I would rather he did not say to me and things I would rather hear. Some days, my pain is so bad I become extremely moody. And a lot of times he tells me to relax it will be ok. UGH nothing annoys me more than that. You may want to sit your daughter down and ask her things she would rather hear and rather not hear!
      And again, sometimes, saying nothing at all, or just asking how she is doing, is more than enough. <3 I am sending both you and your daughters hugs. I know how difficult this journey is.

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