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Please Don't Say 'You'll Be Fine' To Someone With Chronic Pain

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Do you know what it feels like to not remember the last time you got through a day without painkillers?

Do you know what it feels like to wake up after a 12-hour sleep and still feel exhausted?

Do you know what it feels like to not be able to make plans in advance, because you won’t know how you’ll be feeling on that specific day?

If you do, then you likely know that the words “You’ll be fine,” muttered by a friend, family member or colleague, is one of the worst comments to hear.

Just to give you a little insight into my life and why I’m writing this, I’m a 24-year-old scoliosis warrior with chronic pain. I’ve had two major spinal surgeries and have been in constant pain for eight years. I’ve come to terms with the fact I’m never going to get fully better. However, what I haven’t come to terms with is when people who have never had pain for more than a few days at a time comment on how I should be feeling or what I should be managing to do.

Just a few weeks ago, my friends were discussing going to a music festival later on this year. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? However, having chronic pain, I know there is no way on Earth I am going to manage sleeping on the floor in a tent for four days straight. And when I told my friends this, some understood and said “That’s a shame.” Others questioned me and asked, “Won’t you be OK just for a couple of nights?” And then one said “Oh, you’ll be fine!”

“You’ll be fine.” Really? I know that other people who have chronic pain will be the only ones who understand what we truly go through, but I find it so frustrating when a person, especially someone who is supposed to be a friend, thinks I’ll be fine to do something I’ve said that I physically won’t be able to do. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I could stay in a tent for four nights, dosed up on pain medications and needing to sleep every 30 minutes, but there is no way I would enjoy it. And the pain I would be in during and afterwards is not even worth thinking about for me.

The words “You’ll be fine” are just thoughtless and unkind. I’ve heard them before when I’ve voiced my concern over going somewhere or taking part in something I know I won’t be able to handle. A few times I’ve even gone ahead and done the activity I was told “I’ll be fine” at and then ended up in agony and exhausted. The only good thing about going through with a task once someone has said those words is that they can see how “not fine” I actually am. But even that’s not worth it.

These three words can make people with chronic pain feel like liars. And although we understand that not everyone knows how we feel, just throwing those words at us will not make us feel better, it can make us feel worse and unbelieved.

So please, think twice before you tell someone “you’ll be fine.” No one knows us better than ourselves.

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Thinkstock photo by Misha Beliy

Originally published: February 20, 2017
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