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15 Things People With Chronic Illness Mean When They Say 'I Don't Feel Good'

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Many of those with chronic illness may be used to saying they’re “good” or “fine” when it comes to how they’re feeling. It doesn’t always mean they’re actually good or fine though. It might just be what they’re portraying to the world. They may do this for a variety of reasons. People living with a chronic illness could be exhausted of explaining things to people, worried they’ll be seen as a “burden” if they admit how they really feel or they could simply be lying because sometimes, it’s easier.

So when someone with a chronic illness admits they aren’t feeling good, they might really be struggling. Of course, what they actually mean could be a multitude of things.

A lot of the time, admitting you aren’t feeling OK can mean anything from feeling too exhausted to move, to being at the point where you’re in so much pain you can’t even think straight. There can be so many aspects to just four words: “I don’t feel good.” That’s why we asked our Mighty community what those words mean when they say them. No matter what someone means when they say “I don’t feel good,” they deserve to be taken seriously, respected and understood. If you have anything to add to this list, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s what our community told us: 

1. “I’ve reached my limit.”

“When I say I don’t feel well it means I’ve reached my limit of what I can handle and my symptoms are becoming overwhelming.” – Laina M.

“What I really mean is, ‘I am in excruciating pain, and I want to go home to curl up in bed and cry because it is so bad.’” – Mattie M.

“It usually means I feel utter exhaustion, overheating, dizziness, and pain. They all sort of bounce off each other. I need to sit, and be cool and still and recover. I cannot give you anymore of me, because I don’t have anything left to give.” – Maria B.

2. “Daily tasks have become too much.”

“I just got diagnosed with MS [multiple sclerosis]. When I say I don’t feel well it means I’m physically and mentally done for the day, and it’s usually because I’ve been fighting just to do normal things like walk or take a shower. It is a completely exhausting and demanding disease.” – Kristen S.

“[It means] don’t give me a task to do.” – Sarah L.

3. “Every part of my body hurts.”

“When I say, ‘I don’t feel good’ I mean, ‘every single part of my body hurts, I haven’t slept, my head is foggy, my abdomen is incredibly tender, I feel nauseous and I want to cry.’” – Kelly C.

“When I tell someone I don’t feel good, it really means: I woke up this morning from feeling pelvic and lower abdominal pain, along with severe nausea that makes me not want to eat anything even though I need to eat, lower back pain that makes me want to sit all day, head or neck pain that forces my head needing support with pillows and an overall feeling of being worn down. Please trust me when I say I don’t feel good and believe me when I feel it’s best to stay in and rest.” – Sara T.

4. “I’m at my breaking point.”

“I don’t usually let people know how I am feeling – so if I say ‘I don’t feel good’ or ‘I am hurting today’ that means currently I am unable to function at all, my pain levels are through the roof, making me nauseous, cranky and unable to focus on much of anything. Even heating up a can of soup is likely more than I am able to handle or if I do push through to do something like that… it will make everything exponentially worse.” – Noelle M.

“When I say, ‘I don’t feel good,’ it means that I have already gone through many levels of pain that will make anyone cry and I’m now about to collapse.” – Sundari L.

5. “I’m exhausted.”

“[It means] that today’s show is cancelled.” – Lauren P.

“[It means] ‘I’m tired and want to be left alone for a while,’ without sounding rude.” – Tracy L.

“I’m beyond exhausted, my disorder is winning today, but I’m a warrior and will rise again.” – Lisa J.

6. “I don’t have any mental or physical energy left.”

“I can’t focus. I’m exhausted. It takes too much energy: mental and physical to even be or feel like a human right now. I want a gold star for just showing up right now.” – Hailey B.

7. “I’m ‘pangry’ (in pain and angry).”

“[It] might really mean… That my pain level has reached the ‘hangry’ stage but it’s pangry: in pain and angry about it and it’s easier to say ‘I don’t feel good’ than to say I’m physically and mentally exhausted, headache, dizzy, fatigue, joint pain and skin pain… Boils down to the shoulder shrug eye roll, ‘I don’t feel good’ (you wouldn’t understand anyways).” – Alyssa J.

8. “I feel worse than usual today.”

“I never really feel ‘well,’ but today I feel much worse than usual.” – Stephanie T.

“I never feel ‘well’ but today is extreme and I don’t have the energy to explain that.” – Kate B.

“If I say this, it means something is wrong beyond my normal everyday fatigue and pain from Sjogren’s syndrome. I say this and ‘I don’t feel right’ for when I need my husband to keep a closer watch on me or I need to go to the ER. It means my pain is beyond a 10, that my heart rate is too high and I can feel my body shutting down. It’s easier for me if I have key phrases that people know mean something is wrong versus I’m sick with the flu or having a flare-up.” – KC F.

9. “I don’t want to be judged for explaining how I’m really feeling.”

“[It means that] I need to lay down and rest my body without feeling guilty about it.” – Charissa K.

“I have a migraine. Or I just don’t want to feel judged/bore you with a true explanation of how I’m feeling.” – Gabrielle M.

“I’m not OK, I’m so utterly exhausted, but I don’t want to be thought of as ‘the complainer,’ so let’s just leave it at that.” – Kelly H.

10. “I need help.”

“It’s always my way of asking for help… I can’t fake it anymore but I’m still trying to. It’s not easy for me to say ‘I need your help’ so I’ll just say ‘I don’t feel good’ and hope you understand.” – Christina B.

“I want someone to acknowledge my pain and baby me for a bit.” – Kim B.

“When I tell people I don’t feel good it means I need a hug. Pain can’t be taken away but a hug makes it feel you aren’t alone.” – Michelle T.

11. “I need time to recharge.”

“I’m stressed or exhausted and need a break. Or I am out of spoons and need to sit for a while and recharge a little.” – Malorie A.

“’I don’t feel well’ can mean I’m just a little lightheaded or it can mean I’m coming up on my limit. Unfortunately, it’s the latter. It means: as much as I want to continue on, this is my subtle way of asking for a break or to relax.” – Becka K.

12. “I feel like I’m fading away.”

“I just feel like I’m decaying from the inside out and still act like it’s nothing.” – Aliciana W.

“I feel like I am decaying. The pain, the fatigue, the shame from not being able to function as I need to in order to be a functioning member of society. My insides are doing flips.” – Alexandria N.

13. “Something’s wrong, but I’m trying to hold it together.”

“I don’t know if I want to throw up or pass out, but I’m just going to pretend everything is OK and hold it together.” – Kim D.

“I’m either in severe pain, on the verge of puking, or too fatigued to take another step, or all of the above. There’s nothing you can do to help me except let me rest and take my meds so I try not to make a big deal out of it.” – Lizzie T.

14. “I’m tired of explaining my chronic illness.”

“I don’t feel well means I’m sick of explaining my chronic illness to people.” – Marlene G.

“[It means] I’m so fatigued and in so much pain I don’t really function. But I can’t say that to most people, so a ‘today, I don’t feel too good’ is what they get.” – Michelle M.

“I don’t feel good, chronic pain translation: I feel like you would feel if you had the flu, started your period and just got hit by a ball bat in every joint of your body simultaneously… Emotional, moody, stiff, fatigued, cramping, headache and body aches.” – Angela D.

15. “I can’t hide my pain anymore.”

“I’m in so much pain that I can no longer hide it from you, I want to fall asleep and never wake up, I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks, I’m probably struggling to stand up right now.” – Chantel T.

If you are struggling with the stress of your chronic illness or if any of this feels very familiar, please reach out to someone you trust. You’re not alone.

Below are some helpful articles from our chronic illness community:

Originally published: March 21, 2019
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