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What I Really Mean When I Say 'I'm Fine' as Someone With Chronic Illness

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Living with chronic illness and pain is something that isn’t easily understood by people who are not going through the same thing. Moreover, the effects of illness are an emotional and personal daily battle.

Many people have this notion that if you look fine, you are feeling good or having a good health day. Many also don’t realize that even when we say we are fine, we really are not. At times when I say I am OK, I really wish I could share with people who don’t understand my ordeal and how chronic illness and pain truly affect my life.

Every now and then, when I say I am OK or I am fine, I really mean to say:

“I hurt more than I can effectively express.” The physical part is often easier than the emotional part. I have people in my life who don’t believe the extent of my sickness and pain, so I keep how I am actually feeling to myself and experience has given me many reasons to do so. I have had people I once called friends and loved ones who have walked away because I believe my being sick was too inconvenient for them. While I have learned that their actions had more to do with them than anything I did, it still saddens me because I would have been there for them.

I don’t have a lot of emotional support so I seek help in therapy and I look for solace in prayer and in the things and the people that I love. These things have allowed me to a stronger person — both in conviction and in the ability to see past my limitations. So, yes I hurt both physically and emotionally but I have found strength I never thought I had.

“I am scared.” I have read up on about rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and fibromyalgia. I know there is no cure for either and I don’t see remission in my future. I also know I will never return to perfect health. I worry about what the future holds and where I will be in 10 years or 20 years. I am only 40 so I have a long life with RA and fibromyalgia. I worry about how I will take care of myself if things get worse and who will take care of my kids. I have valid questions, but I know that these questions don’t have concrete answers.

Taking life one day at a time is all I can do and that is scary in and of itself. I will never be my former self, but I am working on maintaining some level of peace when it comes to my health. While I am scared, I try to focus on the here and now so that I can make the best of my life with chronic illness.

“Life is just not fair.” I am not always able to make plans because I don’t know if I will be able to follow through. I don’t know what the future holds because I have to take life as it comes. I can only be hopeful, and I am. Chronic illness has taken a lot from me, but I have taken a lot back.

No one said life was fair but it is worth living. While I truly believe that, I just sometimes want to vent and say that life just isn’t fair.

“It is not my fault.” Being sick is not my fault, but sometimes I feel like it is. I worked hard at every aspect of my personal life and professional life before illness and even harder after illness. I am a good parent and my kids are turning out just fine, but sometimes I feel guilty they can’t have the parent that I wish they had. I was a faithful and loving spouse but my spouse wasn’t. As a result, my marriage ended and while I know that had nothing to do with chronic illness, it happened after I was diagnosed, and sometimes it makes me second-guess myself. I have been a successful employee and I have been a great volunteer in the community. I am a patient advocate and I am good at what I do. I have accomplished so many things despite and with chronic illness.

What went wrong — my getting sick — that wasn’t my fault and the bad things that happened after weren’t my fault, either. All the good things were due to my hard work. Nonetheless, if I could have protected my health, I would have done everything in my power to make sure I stayed healthy, but I couldn’t. Further, I had no control of the awful things that happened afterwards. That just goes back to life simply not always being fair. So, I didn’t mean to get sick — I really didn’t — that’s all.

Right now, I am feeling better than I have been in a long time – both physically and emotionally. Sometimes, I actually feel fine when I say I am and other times, I am not fine at all. When I am not feeling well, I have things to say. Yet, it is not always easy to say them.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Originally published: April 22, 2016
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