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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via jacoblund.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Fibromyalgia

person running through a dark tunnel toward the sun

Finding Light in the Darkness of Fibromyalgia

There’s a trick in the world of fibromyalgia that I fall for every time. There’s this kind of pain amnesia – a moment where I’m feeling good, relatively pain free, and somehow I forget and I think, “I’ve got this, I just have to keep eating right, exercise, tweak my supplements and I can defeat [...]
fibro warrior pin and 'I am fibro strong' t-shirt

These Products Can Help You Raise Awareness of Fibromyalgia

Although fibromyalgia is not a rare condition, as it affects roughly 10 million people in the United States alone, there is still much that is unknown about the condition. Currently, fibromyalgia has no cure, and while researchers have theories, there is no singular identified cause. The illness wasn’t even officially recognized until 1981, and diagnostic [...]
people praying at a chuch

Why Going to Church Can Be Difficult When You Have Fibromyalgia

I was determined to go to Harvest Thanksgiving at church yesterday. I washed my fine, fly-away hair the day before, because it’s long and is too much bother if I have to go anywhere in the morning (I refuse to sacrifice my hair to this condition). However, I had a restless, sweaty night with little [...]
A watercolored illustration of a girl walking along a path, surrounded by trees.

When Chronic Pain Made Me Realize I Don't Have Total Control Over My Health

Early on in life, my health problems were typically of my own making, brought on by the usual vices: overeating, drinking or stressing. In response, I would reign in the excesses and my body would revive. Such a simple prescription for healing! This pattern subconsciously reinforced the belief that I was in control of my [...]