What I Really Mean When I Say, 'I'm Hanging in There' as Someone With Chronic Illness


What do you say when someone asks you how you’re doing? Do you say “I’m good,” “I’m well,” ” I’m great!” or “I’m alright?” Usually out of habit we just say something that doesn’t truthfully describe how we really are. There’s a doctor I work with who always asks me how I’m doing. With this paticular doctor, I feel comfortable saying when I’m having a bad pain day (or week). But oftentimes I just feel like I’m lying when someone asks me that simple question in passing. I say “I’m alright.” Honestly, most of the time I’m not alright. I don’t want to lie but at the same time, people don’t have time for the full update of how I really feel/am. That’s like asking a person with fibromyalgia “What hurts?” Bruh… seriously? Do you have time for this list?

So, I started telling people “I’m hangin’ in there.” This means a multitude of things but it’s a truthful answer and leaves the other person with the decision to end the conversation there or ask me to elaborate.

Here’s my explanation of what this phrase means for me:

I’d rather not be here right now. I didn’t sleep at all last night because pain and muscle spasms decided to have a party in my legs and feet. The amount of exhaustion I feel is beyond what I can attempt to explain. My entire spine is hurting. No joke. Neck to tailbone. I’m dizzy and a little nauseous. I’ve had this headache for days. I’m wondering why my rheumatologist gave me this medicine because it sure isn’t working. I’m trying to hide this limp but my knee is on fire. I could use a shoulder massage… but the pain from a massage would probably make me pass out. I’m far too young to have such a high level of hip pain. Let’s look on the bright side though: I only had one emotional breakdown this week! Did I mention my (bleepin’) back hurts?!

I, like everyone else with a chronic illness (or two), really am hanging in there. I’m pushing through the pain and exhaustion. I’m putting a smile on and hiding as much of the pain as I can. All I want to do is lie down and eat but I show up to work. No, I usually don’t want to hang out, but I do anyway because I need to interact with actual people. Dealing with being sick and weak every single day of my life takes a toll on my emotions and calls for a good ugly face cry every once in a while. Sometimes I’m just hanging on by a thread… but hangin’ nonetheless.

Keep hangin’ in there, peeps!

This post originally appeared on The Antisocial Butterfly.

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Thinkstock photo via jacoblund.


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