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'I'm Fine,' and Other Lies I've Told Myself

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They say you’re not supposed to personalize physical pain, especially when it’s chronic. You shouldn’t refer to it as “my pain,” instead “the pain.” You can also give the pain a name. That way when it lingers like the last guest at a party you are able to remember the pain is in fact a guest, a guest that notoriously overstays their welcome.  I haven’t given the pain a fun name yet, primarily because I believe I’m fine. I don’t consider the pain or my experience with illness unique. Some bodies function properly with little to no intervention, and other bodies require extra attention. I am the latter.

My body benefits from rationing energy, the assistance of a chic cane, and sometimes sitting in the shower. These are not the only interventions my body requires, and I don’t require them indefinitely. Along the way, I’ve become gentle with myself. During the times when a profound craving for substance-induced oblivion arises, or when I have to say no to events, or when I feel the disappointment I so eagerly avoid, I feel it. Even when it’s uncomfortable. I make sure to let it rise to the surface, make its appearance, and understand where it came from. I sit with it because I don’t delegate my rationed energy to suppression anymore, and let’s face it, it’s hard to run from things when you use a cane.

I don’t believe in suffering in my circumstance. Sure, my mobility is sometimes limited and my growing pains have continued after my body reached its desired size, but I am fine. I have made coziness my religion. I have become fluent in the art of comfort while experiencing pain — mental or physical — which is practiced with surgical precision. Learning which pillow feels best under your knees and which blanket feels good on your skin during a flare is a process of trial and error that truly tests your endurance for annoyance.

I have cataloged memories before the pain had clinical names. Memories where sore muscles were explained by dancing with friends or falling asleep on the floor, and the fatigue could be blamed on my insatiable hunger for new experiences. I realize now I have been swimming against the current for a while. For the majority of my life, I have been seeking the feeling of safety. I thought I found it when I left home and moved states away, or when I finally started taking anxiety medication. I even tricked myself into believing I found it in alcohol.

If safety is found in something tangible, doesn’t that mean it can always be taken away? Maybe I’ve felt safe my whole life and was incapable of identifying the feeling, or it’s possible I’ll never find safety at all. Maybe I’m fine constantly seeking it, and maybe I’ll believe all the other lies I’ve told myself.

Originally published: July 12, 2022
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