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.


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