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How Saying 'I'm Fine' Helps Me Stay Hopeful for the Future

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There’s a difference between being tired and having fatigue. There’s a difference between intermittent pain and the daily pain that comes with disease and flares. What I say or show does not always reflect how I feel. There is a difference between “feeling fine and functioning” versus “feeling fine and actually living.” I understand that saying “I’m fine” doesn’t give anyone any indication that I’m not fine, but it gives me something to say without having to constantly complain or lie and say I’m doing well. It’s the same concept when any woman says she’s fine. We all know that means she most definitely is not fine.

For myself and others alike, feeling fine is an actual feeling, just as much as feeling happy or sad, good or bad. All “feeling fine” means is that the threshold for how I typically feel has not moved, despite it being higher than what you would naturally expect of someone functioning as well as I am.

Having an illness, or any trial in life, does not define who you are as a person and it most certainly does not stop your life. So pain or no pain, symptoms or no symptoms, flare or no flare, I have to continue pushing forward in life. Refusing to let chronic illnesses dampen my dreams and aspirations results in resilience and character, determination and strength and the ability to push through the pain and fatigue, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and tears. Ultimately, you learn to function at this new threshold.

This threshold, however, unpredictably changes every day, adding to the challenge of functioning normally. Therefore, it is hard for someone with an illness that flares to plan too far ahead, and it’s why we “constantly cancel.” We never know how we are going to feel when we wake up. Every morning is a surprise. Feeling “fine” includes the pain, daily symptoms and side effects I struggle with but have learned to live with and adapt to daily to function as much as possible. If I cancel, complain or sacrifice some pride and ask for help, the flare is probably considerably bad.

This is often true for anyone who is struggling – no one’s challenges are “better” or “worse” than others’. It’s something you just simply have to learn to understand. While this is often challenging at times, I cannot overuse this excuse or cancel too often, putting life on hold. I cannot let it control my life or define who I am. Rheumatoid arthritis is something I have, not what I am. I have SMAS but I am not superior mesenteric artery syndrome. I am an aspiring writer. I am a volunteer. I am a student. I am a daughter, a sister, a niece and a cousin. I am fearless, and most days I am also fine.

woman smiling with a tube in her nose

I have come to realize there is another side to this life. Struggling with rare and chronic diseases and constantly being in the hospital or at doctor appointments is not the only side. The other side holds my future, my career, my wedding and children. It is essential to always remind myself of this side and try to believe in it and strive to live in it. There is more to my life than my illness and I have more to offer than co-pays. Feeling fine is what allows me to live on the other side of illness where I can truly be full of light and hope rather than just giving in and crawling back in bed like I would like to do.

While it is not always as easy as it seems, and some days pushing through falls victim to needing an important rest and recovery day, it is also not impossible. Feeling fine is what makes it possible. Feeling fine means: Hold these pills, I have a future to chase after.

This post originally appeared on I Had a Good Day.

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Originally published: March 24, 2017
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